Forestwise – What story to tell when trying to save the rainforest?


In the past 50 years, more than 50% of Borneo’s original rainforest has been lost to deforestation. That’s more than 2.9 million hectares (almost the size of Belgium). Every second, a patch of rainforest the size of a football field disappears to make place for monoculture plantations. This has huge impact on the environment and the people who live in it.

Within Indonesia, oil palm production expanded from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to over 6 million hectares by 2007. Chains are not fair, and not clean. Borneo is quickly changing into an ecological desert. Local farmers earn low incomes, while their products are sold 10+ times the price at the other side of the world. Local people are losing their land to corporates and have limited access to health care and education.

Forestwise – wild-harvested rainforest ingredients

Dirk-Jan Oudshoorn and Theo Smits founded Forestwise in 2018; to make wild harvested rainforest products available to the world and safe the rainforest from deforestation.

The rainforest contains many products that can be harvested wild: gathered from their natural habitat without causing the rainforest harm. These products contain many powerful ingredients that find valuable uses in the cosmetics and food industries.

Their mission is to help preserve Borneo’s remaining 44% rainforest. They offer sustainable alternatives for local population to earn from the rainforest without turning it into palm oil plantations.

The jungle as business model

Being an ambitious and purpose driven start-up, there were many ideas and initiatives, exploring to find momentum and move from startup to scale up. As part of Fronteer’s Impact Ventures, our quarterly effort to realise positive impact without having a necessary commercial benefit, we joined forces to build an impact strategy for growth. Key questions at start were;

  • Should they be in the B2B or B2C business?
  • Are they a company offering ingredients or merely end products?
  • How can they transform the jungle into an impactful and sustainable business model?

The answers to these would highly affect decision making and the value chain. We used the Ikigai philosophy to clarify and define where Forestwise could have most impact to safeguard the rainforest. Fronteer’s aim was to help Forestwise move from idealistic initiative to mainstream momentum by:

  • Refining their the story
  • Validating the business model
  • Identifying possible partnerships and shared value
  • Create a clear positioning
  • A roadmap to get started

A new factory & the expert that became commercial director

By means of the Fronteer’s approach we moved from kick-off to expert co-creation in Fronteer’s Treehouse, to impact strategy. In co-creation with top notch experts such as food experts, (brand) strategists, founders & entrepreneurs, category & buyer managers from companies like Ahold Delhaize, Seepje, Wessanen and Picnic we generated many ideas and identified opportunities for growth.

The final strategy formed a clear direction for growth which enabled a prioritised roadmap. With focus on the B2B ingredient business and the once-in-three-years harvest season of the Tenkanwang coming up, Forestwise managed to establish production locations, optimise production processes and activated local communications to generate volume and enlarge impact in the B2B segment.

A year after completing our collaboration there are many highlights for celebration. With the clarified positioning Forestwise was able to collect an investment to build a new processing factory in Sintang – West Kalimantan. The team has expanded to 32 employees and one of the experts of the Fronteer Treehouse co-creation session became the commercial director!

new factory forestwise
New factory in Sintang – West Kalimantan


In facts: in 2019 they purchased 500 ton Tenkawang nuts from 1500+ local farmers, from an area of 142.000 hectare which directly contributed to the protection of that forest area.  Next steps for Forestwise: to work with local communities to safeguard the land and start expanding it.

Dirk-Jan: “I enjoyed working with Fronteer. To collaborate in an efficient approach allowed for impactful results in a compact amount of time. For every company that finds itself on a crossroad with many strategic decisions to take, we recommend the help of Fronteer:”

Want to learn more about our approach or how to contribute to safeguard the rainforest?

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Frédérique Moolenbeek

Associate Partner

Babke Hogenhuis

Senior Strategist