Sara Davis is the founder of Synergy Farms, Inc. (SFI), a social enterprise supporting small farmers in communities around the world. SFI is on a mission to improve global food security and reduce poverty through profitable aquaponic fish farming.
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, and a graduate of Fisk University, Sara launched SFI in 2013. Before founding SFI, Sara served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and Belize, working in rural economic development and advising small businesses. Sara currently serves as Director of SFI and Synergy Farms Namibia (SF Nam) in Windhoek, Namibia.
SFI, based in Nashville, Tennessee, is a social enterprise, supporting small farmers in communities around the world. The goal is simple, yet big—to end global poverty through small business enterprises. SFI empowers local farmers to improve global food security using aquaponic technology. SFI is growing locally: from Southern Africa to Rural Tennessee, SFI is expanding local farm production for better access to nutritious foods.
In this conversation, The Kassan Group Founder Jenny Kassan talks with Sara about the work SFI is doing to drive the development of an inclusive, regenerative economy.
Jenny Kassan: A new economy that yields equitable outcomes implies approaching business with “new” or different tactics. How has SFI adapted to meet the shifting challenges of the day?
Sara Davis: We stay agile by approaching our work environment from a non-traditional lens. SFI is based in Nashville as the parent company to SF Nam, our venture aquaculture farms in Southern Africa. SFI is responsible for management and directing operations abroad. SFI’s workspace is virtual. Tasks and responsibilities carried out by the executive team are implemented from the comfort of each person’s space. Our executive team is made up of shareholders who are committed to focus capital investments toward growing our production and maximizing profits. Our goal is to effectively contribute to creating a food-secure world.
JK: As a business owner, how do you motivate investors, policymakers, and customers to take ownership of the change they want to see in our economy and society?
SD: Launching a for-profit social enterprise was a brave and sometimes lonely endeavor. Prior to producing in Namibia, as founder, I first focused on building a support network of individuals I could rely on for encouragement throughout the long and arduous journey. Many of those who support me also work in spaces focused on social improvement, however in the non-profit or religious realm. It has never been a hard message to impress upon others that profits can be generated while doing the good, necessary work. For SFI, staying persistent, creating small successes, and celebrating those transformations along the way have encouraged our investors and customers. Being visible in spaces where other profit-driven business models do not exist has encouraged support from local policymakers, confirming that our presence and approach matter and is valuable.
JK: As we collectively face challenges on a global scale, to what extent is social entrepreneurship “borderless” in your view?
SD: In my view, no environment is absent of challenge and world experience. The bond among justice fighters has no end; “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
JK: What are three lifestyle or professional habits you use to stay focused, healthy, and ready to take on the world?
- Schedule time to rest. Working endlessly is learned behavior. In the development space, there is no end to solving problems. Sufficient rest and reduced pressure allow me to maintain my creativity.
- Be intentionally non-competitive. Some social environments create the false sense that one is better than the other versus all are valuable. Seeing each other as brothers and sisters holding hands to accomplish goals, and recognizing that there is room for us all in abundance, helps me approach any market as an achiever.
- Encourage others. The energy that I put out returns to me. My desire is to offer positive reinforcement and likewise want to receive positivity.
About Sara Davis
Sara Davis is the founder of Synergy Farms, Inc. (SFI), a social enterprise with a mission to improve global food security and reduce poverty through profitable aquaponic fish farming. A Nashville native and Fisk University graduate, Sara launched SFI in 2013. Prior to founding Synergy Farms, Inc., Sara served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and Belize, working in rural economic development and advising small businesses.
Sara worked for First Tennessee Bank in small business banking and retirement planning, and later at State Farm as a Property and Casualty Sales Manager. Sara received intensive training in commercial aquaponic farming as an apprentice in 2014 at Growing Power Inc. in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Will Allen, a founder, farmer, philanthropist, and MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellow, shared his knowledge in sustainable agriculture aquaponic production with Sara, and he continues to serve as a close and trusted advisor. Sara currently serves as Director for Synergy Farms, Inc. and Synergy Farms Namibia in Windhoek, Namibia.