When it comes to sustainable livestock production and agriculture, measurement is the first — and sometimes most elusive — step in the process of turning our food system from a carbon emitter into a carbon sink.
So DSM, a science-based company that focuses on agriculture and other parts of our food systems, and Blonk, a data analytics for sustainability consultancy, developed Sustell, a combination software and practical service for ranchers to understand and improve the sustainability of their operations.
While sustainable and regenerative agriculture doesn’t have a universally agreed-upon definition, it usually involves changing land management practices to sequester more carbon in the soil, using more environmentally friendly animal feeds and reducing fossil fuel usage of tractors and other farm equipment among many other changes. The goal is to reduce the 7.1 gigatonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere, about 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, created by the livestock industry.
“There’s this tremendous need for accurate footprinting of animal production down to the individual farm level,” said David Nickell, vice president of sustainability and business solutions at DSM. “And each farm, of course, is very different. And you have to have a system which is able to use actual farm data, and to get an accurate picture of that particular farm.”
The system analyzes the environmental impact of a farm’s activity on 19 different categories, including climate change, resource use, water scarcity, runoff and ozone depletion. Farmers provide data on their daily operations, including feed composition and use, manure management practices, animal mortality, the electricity system and the other infrastructure, transportation logistics and mitigation technologies employed, like scrubbers or excess heat circulation systems, and sometimes packaging to the software.
Blonk’s environmental footprint technology then produces a life cycle assessment of the farm, an analysis of the environmental impact of rearing an animal from inception to when it exits the farm gate. DSM and Blonk have created Sustell modules for most land farm animals, including chickens, pigs and dairy and egg production, and plans to extend it to cover beef and aquaculture.
“What is really key is that we were able to build on this momentum of methodologies and standards that have been developed,” said Hans Blonk, CEO of Blonk Consultants and Blonk Sustainability Tools.
Blonk was able to combine agriculture environmental standards from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, European Commission and many others in one place to create the vast library of background data needed for the software to produce useful and actionable insights.
“Customers at the moment really want to understand what they’re doing,” Nickell said. “They want to understand their baseline [footprint] and rank them. Understand what’s good, and what’s not so good. Customers want to understand how they rate compared to peer benchmarking, whether it’s a country or an industry benchmark.”
Once the Sustell software gives farmers clarity on the emissions on their farms, they can then identify where improvements need to be made and DSM helps implement ways of reducing those emissions, creating an end-to-end service for customers and hopefully a positive impact on the planet.
“Practical interventions make change happen,” Nickell said. “We’ve invested in technologies which reduce the footprint of animal products production. The service is measurement and marry that up with bringing solutions, which make a difference. That’s the complete solution to making this much-needed change happen.”
But in order for Sustell to create that change, it needs to be adopted widely and the learnings need to be shared between competitors. Right now, DSM and, in some ways, the capitalist system, isn’t set up for that.
According to Nickell, DSM is first focusing Sustell on big integrated livestock companies. This is a common challenge with new innovative environmental technologies that can be adopted by big farming conglomerates or co-ops with money and resources to spend, while smaller family farms get left behind. But Nickell hopes that Sustell can scale to work with smaller farms, as well.
The second issue is around data sharing. While Nickell was very clear that Sustell will be following all applicable data privacy and ownership rules — and that’s usually a good thing — in order to really create meaningful environmental change, transparency is actually key. Competitors need to share the best ways for reducing emissions so everyone can adopt them and save the planet, but many companies are very data protective.
“I think maybe that [data sharing] develops in time,” Nickell said. “I don’t think we’re there yet. Maybe it will get to that level as more and more customers are transparent on their footprint and their reporting.”
As the price of bitcoin hits record highs and cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, the industry’s expanding carbon footprint becomes harder to ignore.
Just last week, Elon Musk announced that Tesla is suspending vehicle purchases using bitcoin due to the environmental impact of fossil fuels used in bitcoin mining. We applaud this decision, and it brings to light the severity of the situation — the industry needs to address crypto sustainability now or risk hindering crypto innovation and progress.
The market cap of bitcoin today is a whopping $1 trillion. As companies like PayPal, Visa and Square collectively invest billions in crypto, market participants need to lead in dramatically reducing the industry’s collective environmental impact.
As the price of bitcoin hits record highs and cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, the industry’s expanding carbon footprint becomes harder to ignore.
The increasing demand for crypto means intensifying competition and higher energy use among mining operators. For example, during the second half of February, we saw the electricity consumption of BTC increase by more than 163% — from 265 TWh to 433 TWh — as the price skyrocketed.
Sustainability has become a topic of concern on the agendas of global and local leaders. The Biden administration rejoining the Paris climate accord was the first indication of this, and recently we’ve seen several federal and state agencies make statements that show how much of a priority it will be to address the global climate crisis.
A proposed New York bill aims to prohibit crypto mining centers from operating until the state can assess their full environmental impact. Earlier this year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission put out a call for public comment on climate disclosures as shareholders increasingly want information on what companies are doing in this regard, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the amount of energy consumed in processing bitcoin is “staggering.” The United Kingdom announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, and the prime minister launched an ambitious plan last year for a green industrial revolution.
Crypto is here to stay — this point is no longer up for debate. It is creating real-world benefits for businesses and consumers alike — benefits like faster, more reliable and cheaper transactions with greater transparency than ever before. But as the industry matures, sustainability must be at the center. It’s easier to build a more sustainable ecosystem now than to “reverse engineer” it at a later growth stage. Those in the cryptocurrency markets should consider the auto industry a canary: Carmakers are now retrofitting lower-carbon and carbon-neutral solutions at great cost and inconvenience.
Market participants need to actively work together to realize a low-emissions future powered by clean, renewable energy. Last month, the Crypto Climate Accord (CCA) launched with over 40 supporters — including Ripple, World Economic Forum, Energy Web Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute and ConsenSys — and the goal to enable all of the world’s blockchains to be powered by 100% renewables by 2025.
Some industry participants are exploring renewable energy solutions, but the larger industry still has a long way to go. While 76% of hashers claim they are using renewable energy to power their activities, only 39% of hashing’s total energy consumption comes from renewables.
To make a meaningful impact, the industry needs to come up with a standard that’s open and transparent to measure the use of renewables and make renewable energy accessible and cheap for miners. The CCA is already working on such a standard. In addition, companies can pay for high-quality carbon offsets for remaining emissions — and perhaps even historical ones.
While the industry works to become more sustainable long term, there are green choices that can be made now, and some industry players are jumping on board. Fintechs like Stripe have created carbon renewal programs to encourage its customers and partners to be more sustainable.
Companies can partner with organizations, like Energy Web Foundation and the Renewable Energy Business Alliance, to decarbonize any blockchain. There are resources for those who want to access renewable energy sources and high-quality carbon offsets. Other options include using inherently low-carbon technologies, like the XRP Ledger, that don’t rely on proof-of-work (which involves mining) to help significantly reduce emissions for blockchains and cryptofinance.
The XRP Ledger is carbon-neutral and uses a validation and security algorithm called Federated Consensus that is approximately 120,000 times more energy-efficient than proof-of-work. Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain, is transitioning off proof-of-work to a much less energy-intensive validation mechanism called proof-of-stake. Proof-of-work systems are inefficient by design and, as such, will always require more energy to maintain forward progress.
The devastating impact of climate change is moving at an alarming speed. Making aspirational commitments to sustainability — or worse, denying the problem — isn’t enough. As with the Paris agreement, the industry needs real targets, collective action, innovation and shared accountability.
The good news? Solutions can be practical, market-driven and create value and growth for all. Together with climate advocates, clean tech industry leaders and global finance decision-makers, crypto can unite to position blockchain as the most sustainable path forward in creating a green, digital financial future.
Tapping the geothermal energy stored beneath the Earth’s surface as a way to generate renewable power is one of the new visions for the future that’s captured the attention of environmentalists and oil and gas engineers alike.
That’s because it’s not only a way to generate power that doesn’t rely on greenhouse gas emitting hydrocarbons, but because it uses the same skillsets and expertise that the oil and gas industry has been honing and refining for years.
At least that’s what drew the former completion engineer (it’s not what it sounds like) Tim Latimer to the industry and to launch Fervo Energy, the Houston-based geothermal tech developer that’s picked up funding from none other than Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures (that fund… is so busy) and former eBay executive, Jeff Skoll’s Capricorn Investment Group.
With the new $28 million cash in hand Fervo’s planning on ramping up its projects which Latimer said would “bring on hundreds of megawatts of power in the next few years.”
Latimer got his first exposure to the environmental impact of power generation as a kid growing up in a small town outside of Waco, Texas near the Sandy Creek coal power plant, one of the last coal-powered plants to be built in the U.S.
Like many Texas kids, Latimer came from an oil family and got his first jobs in the oil and gas industry before realizing that the world was going to be switching to renewables and the oil industry — along with the friends and family he knew — could be left high and dry.
It’s one reason why he started working on Fervo, the entrepreneur said.
“What’s most important, from my perspective, since I started my career in the oil and gas industry is providing folks that are part of the energy transition on the fossil fuel side to work in the clean energy future,” Latimer said. “I’ve been able to go in and hire contractors and support folks that have been out of work or challenged because of the oil price crash… And I put them to work on our rigs.”
Fervo Energy chief executive, Tim Latimer, pictured in a hardhat at one of the company’s development sites. Image Credits: Fervo Energy
When the Biden administration talks about finding jobs for employees in the hydrocarbon industry as part of the energy transition, this is exactly what they’re talking about.
And geothermal power is no longer as constrained by geography, so there’s a lot of abundant resources to tap and the potential for high paying jobs in areas that are already dependent on geological services work, Latimer said (late last year, Vox published a good overview of the history and opportunity presented by the technology).
“A large percentage of the world’s population actually lives next to good geothermal resources,” Latimer said. “25 countries today that have geothermal installed and producing and another 25 where geothermal is going to grow.”
Geothermal power production actually has a long history in the Western U.S. and in parts of Africa where naturally occurring geysers and steam jets pouring from the earth have been obvious indicators of good geothermal resources, Latimer said.
“Fervo’s technology unlocks a new class of geothermal resource that is ready for large-scale deployment. Fervo’s geothermal systems use novel techniques, including horizontal drilling, distributed fiber optic sensing, and advanced computational modelling, to deliver more repeatable and cost effective geothermal electricity,” Latimer wrote in an email. “Fervo’s technology combines with the latest advancements in Organic Rankine Cycle generation systems to deliver flexible, 24/7 carbon-free electricity.”
Initially developed with a grant from the TomKat Center at Stanford University and a fellowship funded by Activate.org at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Cyclotron Road division, Fervo has gone on to score funding from the DOE’s Geothermal Technology Office and ARPA-E to continue work with partners like Schlumberger, Rice University and the Berkeley Lab.
The combination of new and old technology is opening vast geographies to the company to potentially develop new projects.
Other companies are also looking to tap geothermal power to drive a renewable power generation development business. Those are startups like Eavor, which has the backing of energy majors like bp Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, Temasek, BDC Capital, Eversource and Vickers Venture Partners; and other players including GreenFire Energy, and Sage Geosystems.
Demand for geothermal projects is skyrocketing, opening up big markets for startups that can nail the cost issue for geothermal development. As Latimer noted, from 2016 to 2019 there was only one major geothermal contract, but in 2020 there were ten new major power purchase agreements signed by the industry.
For all of these projects, cost remains a factor. Contracts that are being signed for geothermal that are in the $65 to $75 per megawatt range, according to Latimer. By comparison, solar plants are now coming in somewhere between $35 and $55 per megawatt, as The Verge reported last year.
But Latimer said the stability and predictability of geothermal power made the cost differential palatable for utilities and businesses that need the assurance of uninterruptible power supplies. As a current Houston resident, the issue is something that Latimer has an intimate experience with from this year’s winter freeze, which left him without power for five days.
Indeed, geothermal’s ability to provide always-on clean power makes it an incredibly attractive option. In a recent Department of Energy study, geothermal could meet as much as 16% of the U.S. electricity demand, and other estimates put geothermal’s contribution at nearly 20% of a fully decarbonized grid.
“We’ve long been believers in geothermal energy but have waited until we’ve seen the right technology and team to drive innovation in the sector,” said Ion Yadigaroglu of Capricorn Investment Group, in a statement. “Fervo’s technology capabilities and the partnerships they’ve created with leading research organizations make them the clear leader in the new wave of geothermal.”
Fervo Energy drilling site. Image Credits: Fervo Energy
Restoring and preserving the world’s forests has long been considered one of the easiest, lowest cost, and simplest ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
It’s by far the most popular method for corporations looking to take an easy first step on the long road to decarbonizing or offsetting their industrial operations. But in recent months the efficacy, validity, and reliability of a number of forest offsets have been called into question thanks to some blockbuster reporting from Bloomberg.
It’s against this uncertain backdrop that investors are coming in to shore up financing for Pachama, a company building a marketplace for forest carbon credits that it says is more transparent and verifiable thanks to its use of satellite imagery and machine learning technologies.
That pitch has brought in $15 million in new financing for the company, which co-founder and chief executive Diego Saez Gil said would be used for product development and the continued expansion of the company’s marketplace.
Launched only one year ago, Pachama has managed to land some impressive customers and backers. No less an authority on things environmental than Jeff Bezos (given how much of a negative impact Amazon operations have on the planet), gave the company a shoutout in his last letter to shareholders as Amazon’s outgoing chief executive. And the largest ecommerce company in Latin America, Mercado Libre, tapped the company to manage an $8 million offset project that’s part of a broader commitment to sustainability by the retailing giant.
Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund is an investor in the latest round, which was led by Bill Gates’ investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Other investors included Lowercarbon Capital (the climate-focused fund from über-successful angel investor, Chris Sacca), former Über executive Ryan Graves’ Saltwater, the MCJ Collective, and new backers like Tim O’Reilly’s OATV, Ram Fhiram, Joe gebbia, Marcos Galperin, NBA All-star Manu Ginobilli, James Beshara, Fabrice Grinda, Sahil Lavignia, and Tomi Pierucci.
That’s not even the full list of the company’s backers. What’s made Pachama so successful, and given the company the ability to attract top talent from companies like Google, Facebook, SapceX, Tesla, OpenAI, Microsoft, Impossible Foods and Orbital Insights, is the combination of its climate mission applied to the well-understood forest offset market, said Saez Gil.
“Restoring nature is one of the most important solutions to climate change. Forests, oceans and other ecosystems not only sequester enormous amounts of CO2from the atmosphere, but they also provide critical habitat for biodiversity and are sources of livelihood for communities worldwide. We are building the technology stack required to be able to drive funding to the restoration and conservation of these ecosystems with integrity, transparency and efficiency” said Diego Saez Gil, Co-founder and CEO at Pachama. “We feel honored and excited to have the support of such an incredible group of investors who believe in our mission and are demonstrating their willingness to support our growth for the long term”.
Customers outside of Latin America are also clamoring for access to Pachama’s offset marketplace. Microsoft, Shopify, and Softbank are also among the company’s paying buyers.
It’s another reason that investors like Y Combinator, Social Capital, Tobi Lutke, Serena Williams, Aglaé Ventures (LVMH’s tech investment arm), Paul Graham, AirAngels, Global Founders, ThirdKind Ventures, Sweet Capital, Xplorer Capital, Scott Belsky, Tim Schumacher, Gustaf Alstromer, Facundo Garreton, and Terrence Rohan, were able to commit to backing the company’s nearly $24 million haul since its 2020 launch.
“Pachama is working on unlocking the full potential of nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere,” said Carmichael Roberts from BEV, in a statement. “Their technology-based approach will have an enormous multiplier effect by using machine learning models for forest analysis to validate, monitor and measure impactful carbon neutrality initiatives. We are impressed by the progress that the team has made in a short period of time and look forward to working with them to scale their unique solution globally.”
If businesses are going to meet their increasingly aggressive targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their operations, they’re going to have to have an accurate picture of just what those emissions look like. To get that picture, companies are increasingly turning to businesses like Sweep, which announced its commercial launch today.
The Parisian company boasts a founding team with an impeccable pedigree in enterprise software. Co-founders Rachel Delacour and Nicolas Raspal were the co-founders of BIME Analytics, which was acquired by Zendesk. And together with Zendesk colleagues Raphael Güller and Yannick Chaze, and the founder of the Net Zero Initiative, Renaud Bettin, they’ve created a software toolkit that gives companies a visually elegant view into not just a company’s own carbon emissions, but those of their suppliers as well.
It’s the background of the team that first attracted investors like Pia d’Iribarne, co-founder and managing partner, New Wave, which made their first climate-focused investment into the software developer.
“We decided to invest before we even closed the fund,” d’Iribarne said of the investment in Sweep. “We officially invested in December or January.”
New Wave wasn’t the only investor wowed by the company’s prospects. The new European climate-focused investment firm 2050, and La Famiglia, a fund with strong ties to big European industrial companies, also participated alongside several undisclosed angel investors from the Bay Area. In all Sweep raked in $5 million for its product before it had even launched a beta.
Sweep offers users the ability to visualize each location of a company’s business by brand, location, product or division and see how those different granular operations contribute to a company’s overall carbon footprint. Users can also link those nodes to external suppliers and distributors to share carbon data.
The effects of climate change are increasing, and companies across industries are motivated to do their part. But today’s carbon reduction efforts are being stalled by complex tools and resources that can’t match the urgency of the threat. By putting automation, connectivity and collaboration at the heart of the platform, Sweep is the first to offer companies an efficient mechanism to tackle their indirect Scope 3 emissions, and turn net zero from a buzzword into a reality.
Like the other companies that have come on the market with carbon monitoring and management solutions, Sweep also offers the ability to finance offset projects directly from its platform. And, like those other companies, Sweep’s offsets are primarily in the forestry space.
“Around the world, companies are under pressure from customers, investors and regulators to take action to reduce their emissions,” said Pia d’Iribarne in a statement. “As a result, we’re seeing unprecedented growth in the climate technology market and we expect it to continue to explode. What used to be an issue confined to a company’s sustainability team is now a front-and-center business objective that has the commitment of the CEO. We invested in Sweep because of their world-class expertise in sustainability and their success in developing state-of-the-art, end-to-end SaaS platforms. It’s the right team and the right product at the right time.”
The two founders of Crusoe Energy think they may have a solution to two of the largest problems facing the planet today — the increasing energy footprint of the tech industry and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the natural gas industry.
Crusoe, which uses excess natural gas from energy operations to power data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations, has just raised $128 million in new financing from some of the top names in the venture capital industry to build out its operations — and the timing couldn’t be better.
Methane emissions are emerging as a new area of focus for researchers and policymakers focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global warming within the 1.5 degree targets set under the Paris Agreement. And those emissions are just what Crusoe Energy is capturing to power its data centers and bitcoin mining operations.
The reason why addressing methane emissions is so critical in the short term is because these greenhouse gases trap more heat than their carbon dioxide counterparts and also dissipate more quickly. So dramatic reductions in methane emissions can do more in the short term to alleviate the global warming pressures that human industry is putting on the environment.
And the biggest source of methane emissions is the oil and gas industry. In the U.S. alone roughly 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas is flared daily, said Chase Lochmiller, a co-founder of Crusoe Energy. About two thirds of that is flared in Texas with another 500 million cubic feet flared in North Dakota, where Crusoe has focused its operations to date.
For Lochmiller, a former quant trader at some of the top American financial services institutions, and Cully Cavmess, a third generation oil and gas scion, the ability to capture natural gas and harness it for computing operations is a natural combination of the two men’s interests in financial engineering and environmental preservation.
NEW TOWN, ND – AUGUST 13: View of three oil wells and flaring of natural gas on The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation near New Town, ND on August 13, 2014. About 100 million dollars worth of natural gas burns off per month because a pipeline system isn’t in place yet to capture and safely transport it . The Three Affiliated Tribes on Fort Berthold represent Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. It’s also at the epicenter of the fracking and oil boom that has brought oil royalties to a large number of native americans living there. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The two Denver natives met in prep-school and remained friends. When Lochmiller left for MIT and Cavness headed off to Middlebury they didn’t know that they’d eventually be launching a business together. But through Lochmiller’s exposure to large scale computing and the financial services industry, and Cavness assumption of the family business they came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to address the massive waste associated with natural gas.
Conversation around Crusoe Energy began in 2018 when Lochmiller and Cavness went climbing in the Rockies to talk about Lochmiller’s trip to Mt. Everest.
When the two men started building their business, the initial focus was on finding an environmentally friendly way to deal with the energy footprint of bitcoin mining operations. It was this pitch that brought the company to the attention of investors at Polychain, the investment firm started by Olaf Carlson-Wee (and Lochmiller’s former employer), and investors like Bain Capital Ventures and new investor Valor Equity Partners.
(This was also the pitch that Lochmiller made to me to cover the company’s seed round. At the time I was skeptical of the company’s premise and was worried that the business would just be another way to prolong the use of hydrocarbons while propping up a cryptocurrency that had limited actual utility beyond a speculative hedge against governmental collapse. I was wrong on at least one of those assessments.)
“Regarding questions about sustainability, Crusoe has a clear standard of only pursuing projects that are net reducers of emissions. Generally the wells that Crusoe works with are already flaring and would continue to do so in the absence of Crusoe’s solution. The company has turned down numerous projects where they would be a buyer of low cost gas from a traditional pipeline because they explicitly do not want to be net adders of demand and emissions,” wrote a spokesman for Valor Equity in an email. “In addition, mining is increasingly moving to renewables and Crusoe’s approach to stranded energy can enable better economics for stranded or marginalized renewables, ultimately bringing more renewables into the mix. Mining can provide an interruptible base load demand that can be cut back when grid demand increases, so overall the effect to incentivize the addition of more renewable energy sources to the grid.”
Other investors have since piled on including: Lowercarbon Capital, DRW Ventures, Founders Fund, Coinbase Ventures, KCK Group, Upper90, Winklevoss Capital, Zigg Capital and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel.
The company now operate 40 modular data centers powered by otherwise wasted and flared natural gas throughout North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Next year that number should expand to 100 units as Crusoe enters new markets such as Texas and New Mexico. Since launching in 2018, Crusoe has emerged as a scalable solution to reduce flaring through energy intensive computing such as bitcoin mining, graphical rendering, artificial intelligence model training and even protein folding simulations for COVID-19 therapeutic research.
Crusoe boasts 99.9% combustion efficiency for its methane, and is also bringing additional benefits in the form of new networking buildout at its data center and mining sites. Eventually, this networking capacity could lead to increased connectivity for rural communities surrounding the Crusoe sites.
Currently, 80% of the company’s operations are being used for bitcoin mining, but there’s increasing demand for use in data center operations and some universities, including Lochmiller’s alma mater of MIT are looking at the company’s offerings for their own computing needs.
“That’s very much in an incubated phase right now,” said Lochmiller. “A private alpha where we have a few test customers… we’ll make that available for public use later this year.”
Crusoe Energy Systems should have the lowest data center operating costs in the world, according to Lochmiller and while the company will spend money to support the infrastructure buildout necessary to get the data to customers, those costs are negligible when compared to energy consumption, Lochmiller said.
The same holds true for bitcoin mining, where the company can offer an alternative to coal powered mining operations in China and the construction of new renewable capacity that wouldn’t be used to service the grid. As cryptocurrencies look for a way to blunt criticism about the energy usage involved in their creation and distribution, Crusoe becomes an elegant solution.
Institutional and regulatory tailwinds are also propelling the company forward. Recently New Mexico passed new laws limiting flaring and venting to no more than 2 percent of an operator’s production by April of next year and North Dakota is pushing for incentives to support on-site flare capture systems while Wyoming signed a law creating incentives for flare gas reduction applied to bitcoin mining. The world’s largest financial services firms are also taking a stand against flare gas with BlackRock calling for an end to routine flaring by 2025.
“Where we view our power consumption, we draw a very clear line in our project evaluation stage where we’re reducing emissions for an oil and gas projects,” Lochmiller said.
Earth Day may have come and gone, but with apps like #8meals from the non-profit Habits of Waste, anyone can try and do their part to help reduce deforestation and rising greenhouse gas emissions by cutting meat out of their diets for just 8 meals a week.
The app, which was created by Habits of Waste founder Sheila Morovati along with the development shop Digital Pomegranate, gives users a way to schedule which meals of theirs will be meatless and offers recipe suggestions for what to eat to help them stick to their goals.
For Morovati, the #8meals app is only the latest in a series of initiatives that are meant to cut down on waste and consumption. Morovati’s journey to environmental advocacy began with a program to redistribute used crayons from restaurants to schools in the Southern California region.
That program, called Crayon Collection, has redirected over 20 million crayons from landfills, but Morovati’s non-profit push to reduce waste didn’t end there.
The Habits of Waste organization also launched the #cutoutcutlery campaign, which convinced Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub and DoorDash to change their default settings to make customers opt-in to receive plastic cutlery. It’s a way to reduce the nearly 40 billion plastic utensils that are thrown away each year, according to the Habits of Waste website.
“We decided to create a whole new arm which is cut out cutlery and eight meals. Trying to shift societal mindset is my goal,” said Morovati.
Meanwhile, the number of meat replacements available to consumers continues to expand. Everyone from Post Cereal to Anheuser Busch is trying to make a play for replacements to proteins sourced from animals. That’s not to mention the billions raised by companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat to sell replacements direct to consumers.
Going meatless, even for a few meals a week, can make a huge difference for planetary health (and human health). That’s because animal agriculture is responsible for more than 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide — and it contributes to deforestation.
“I always think about this fake person that I’ve created in my mind and I call him Mr. Joe Barbecue,” Morovati said during a YouTube interview with self-described superfood guru, Darien Olien, earlier this year. “How can we get Mr. Joe Barbecue to be on board? Is it possible to tell him to go fully vegan? I don’t think so. Not yet. But I think if we introduce it with eight meals a week, maybe even Mr. Joe Barbecue will be willing to go there and understand it and try it and open up the door a crack to invite people in who may not be willing to do this.”
Earlier this week, ExxonMobil, a company among the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions and a longtime leader in the corporate fight against climate change regulations, called for a massive $100 billion project (backed in part by the government) to sequester hundreds of millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide in geologic formations off the Gulf of Mexico.
The gall of Exxon’s flag-planting request is matched only by the grit from startup companies that are already working on carbon capture and storage or carbon utilization projects and announced significant milestones along their own path to commercialization even as Exxon was asking for handouts.
These are companies like Charm Industrial, which just completed the first pilot test of its technology through a contract with Stripe. That pilot project saw the company remove 416 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere. That’s a small fraction of the hundred million tons Exxon thinks could be captured in its hypothetical sequestration project located off the Gulf Coast, but the difference between Exxon’s proposal and Charm’s sequestration project is that Charm has actually managed to already sequester the carbon.
The company’s technology, verified by outside observers like Shopify, Microsoft, CarbonPlan, CarbonDirect and others, converts biomass into an oil-like substance and then injects that goop underground — permanently sequestering the carbon dioxide, the company said.
Eventually, Charm would use its bio-based oil equivalent to produce “green hydrogen” and replace pumped or fracked hydrocarbons in industries that may still require combustible fuel for their operations.
1/ Today we're announcing we've delivered @stripe's 416 ton CO₂e carbon removal purchase ahead of schedule, just 12 months after inventing our new carbon removal pathway. The carbon is now in permanent geological storage. https://t.co/ZIy2plK6n9
— Charm Industrial (@CharmIndustrial) April 20, 2021
While Charm is converting biomass into an oil-equivalent and pumping it back underground, other companies like CarbonCure, Blue Planet, Solidia, Forterra, CarbiCrete and Brimstone Energy are capturing carbon dioxide and fixing it in building materials.
“The easy way to think about CarbonCure we have a mission to reduce 500 million tons per year by 2030. On the innovation side of things we really pioneered this area of science using CO2 in a value-added, hyper low-cost way in the value chain,” said CarbonCure founder and chief executive Rob Niven. “We look at CO2 as a value added input into making concrete production. It has to raise profits.”
Niven stresses that CarbonCure, which recently won one half of the $20 million carbon capture XPrize alongside CarbonBuilt, is not a hypothetical solution for carbon dioxide removal. The company already has 330 plants operating around the world capturing carbon dioxide emissions and sequestering them in building materials.
Applications for carbon utilization are important to reduce the emissions footprints of industry, but for nations to achieve their climate objectives, the world needs to move to dramatically reduce its reliance on emissions spewing energy sources and simultaneously permanently draw down massive amounts of greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere.
It’s why the ExxonMobil call for a massive project to explore the permanent sequestration of carbon dioxide isn’t wrong, necessarily, just questionable coming from the source.
The U.S. Department of Energy does think that the Gulf Coast has geological formations that can store 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (which the company says is more than 130 years of the country’s total industrial and power generation emissions). But in ExxonMobil’s calculation that’s a reason to continue with business-as-usual (actually with more government subsidies for its business).
Here’s how the company’s top executives explained it in the pages of The Wall Street Journal:
The Houston CCS Innovation Zone concept would require the “whole of government” approach to the climate challenge that President Biden has championed. Based on our experience with projects of this scale, we estimate the approach could generate tens of thousands of new jobs needed to make and install the equipment to capture the CO2 and transport it via a pipeline for storage. Such a project would also protect thousands of existing jobs in industries seeking to reduce emissions. In short, large-scale CCS would reduce emissions while protecting the economy.
These oil industry executives are playing into a false narrative that the switch to renewable energy and a greener economy will cost the U.S. jobs. It’s a fact that oil industry jobs will be erased, but those jobs will be replaced by other opportunities, according to research published in Scientific American.
“With the more aggressive $60 carbon tax, U.S. employment would still exceed the reference-case forecast, but the increase would be less than that of the $25 tax,” write authors Marilyn Brown and Majid Ahmadi. “The higher tax causes much larger supply-side job losses, but they are still smaller than the gains in energy-efficiency jobs motivated by higher energy prices. Overall, 35 million job years would be created between 2020 and 2050, with net job increases in almost all regions.”
ExxonMobil and the other oil majors definitely have a role to play in the new energy economy that’s being built worldwide, but the leading American oil companies are not going to be able to rest on their laurels or continue operating with a business-as-usual mindset. These companies run the risk of going the way of big coal — slowly sliding into obsolescence and potentially taking thousands of jobs and local economies down with them.
To avoid that, carbon sequestration is a part of the solution, but it’s one of many arrows in the quiver that oil companies need to deploy if they’re going to continue operating and adding value to shareholders. In other words, it’s not the last 130 years of emissions that ExxonMobil should be focused on, it’s the next 130 years that aim to be increasingly zero-emission.
Corporations are quickly waking up to the market potential of alternative proteins with the nation’s biggest consumer brands continuing to make investments and create partnerships with startup companies helping consumers transition to healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets.
As Earth Week draws to a close (thankfully) new partnerships announced over the past week show the potential for new technologies to transform old businesses.
Yesterday the New York-based ZX Ventures, the investment and innovation arm of AB InBev, said that it would be partnering with Clara Foods, a developer of protein production technologies including (but not limited to), brewing egg substitutes. That’s right, the makers of Budweiser are hatching a scheme to make other kinds of liquids that are less potable and more poachable.
In that case, the yolk would definitely be on you, future consumer.
“Since day one, Clara has been on a mission to accelerate the world’s transition to animal-free protein, starting with the egg. More than one trillion eggs are consumed globally every year and corporate commitments for cage-free aren’t enough,” said Arturo Elizondo, the chief executive and co-founder of Clara Foods. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the world’s largest fermentation company to work together to enable a kinder, greener, and more delicious future. This partnership is a major step towards realizing our vision.”
Graph showing the increasing size of investments into alternative proteins in 2020. From 2019 to 2020 investments in alternative proteins soared from just over $1 billion to $3 billion led by investments in plant protein products. Image Credit: Good Food Institute
There are market-driven reasons for the partnership. Demand for high quality proteins is expected to jump up to 98% by 2050, according to research cited by the two companies.
“Meeting the increased demand for food requires breakthrough solutions built on collaboration and innovation that spans several industry domains – both old and new. The ancient and natural process of fermentation can be further harnessed to help meet future demands in our global food system,” said Patrick O’Riordan, founder & CEO at BioBrew, ZX Ventures’ new business line trying to apply large-scale fermentation and downstream processing expertise beyond beer. “We look forward to exploring the development of highly-functional, animal-free egg proteins with Clara Foods in a scalable, sustainable and economically viable manner.”
Formed from the same Seventh Day Adventist focus on plant-based diet and health as a core of spirituality that launched the Kellogg’s cereal empire, Post has long been a rival to the corn flake king with its grape nuts cereal and other grain-based breakfast offerings.
Now the company has led a $25 million investment in Hungry Planet, which aims to provide meat-based replacements for crab cakes, lamb burgers, chicken, pork, and beef. Additional investors included the Singapore-based environmentally sustainable holding company, Trirec.
Alternative proteins are a big business. Last year, companies developing technologies and businesses to commercialize alternative sources of protein raised over $3 billion, according to the industry tracker, the Good Food Institute.
“Over the past year, the alternative protein industry has demonstrated not only resilience but acceleration, raising significantly more investment capital in 2020 than in prior years,” said GFI director of corporate engagement Caroline Bushnell, in a statement. “These capital infusions and the funding still to come will facilitate much-needed R&D and capacity building to enable these companies to scale and reach more consumers with delicious, affordable, and accessible alternative protein products.”
It’s all part of a push to provide more plant-based alternatives to animal proteins in a bid to halt planetary deforestation and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal husbandry.
“Humanity needs solutions that match the scale and urgency of our problems,” said Elizondo. “
The carbon accounting and management platform Persefoni now has $9.7 million more in funding to support its international expansion, product development, and recruitment efforts.
The round, led by Rice Investment Group with participation from NGP ETP, the electricity, renewable and sustainability-focused investment arm of the oil and gas and power focused investment fund NGP, comes only about six months after the startup’s initial launch in August.
Founded only last January, Persefoni touts its tools to assemble, calculate, manage, and report organizational carbon footprints.
The company’s software promises real time reports on scope 1 through 3 emissions (these are emissions generated by a company’s direct operations, its purchases of power and the emissions of its suppliers).
“On the back of a banner year of net-zero commitments from governments, asset managers, and organizations the world over, we saw the venture and software investor communities wake up to what is the formation of the largest regulatory compliance software market since the introduction of Sarbanes Oxley”, said Kentaro Kawamori, CEO and co-founder of Persefoni, in a statement. “We applaud the efforts of financial regulators around the world who are implementing carbon and climate disclosure requirements. Such regulation is one of the most impactful ways to get companies accounting for, and reducing, their carbon footprint.”
Private equity firms like TPG are signing on to Persefoni’s service and Greg Lyons, a principal at NGP will be taking a seat on the company’s board of directors.
Additional investors in the company include the Carnrite Group and Sallyport Investments.
“Sallyport looks to partner with high-growth companies with an aim of making a meaningful industry impact,” said Doug Foshee, founder and owner of Sallyport Investments, in a statement.
Boosting the company’s environmental, social, and corporate governance bona fides is the addition of Robert G. Eccles, the founding chairman of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, to Persefoni’s board of advisors.
The $9 trillion financial management firm Blackrock is collaborating with the $313 billion Singapore investment firm Temasek to back companies developing technologies and services to help create a zero emission economy by 2050.
The two mega-investment firms will invest an initial $600 million to launch Decarbonization Partners, and look to raise money from investors committing to achieving a net zero world and long-term sustainable finacnial returns. The two partners have set themselves a goal to raise $1 billion for their first fund, including capital from Temasek and BlackRock.
The partnership, coming during Earth month, is one of several big multi-billion dollar initiatives that are underway to prevent global climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
Indeed, BlackRock is somewhat tardy to the party. Temasek, for its part, has already made a number of high-profile bets in the alternative meat market — namely in companies like Impossible Foods — and in alternative energy technology developers including Eavor, a geothermal company, and a $500 million bet on a renewable power developer in India.
Meanwhile, a coalition of billionaires led by Bill Gates are already on their second billion dollar investment vehicle through Breakthrough Energy, a multi-stage, multi-strategy initiative that includes a venture capital arm as well as other types of financing on the way.
“The world cannot meet its net zero ambitions without transformational innovation,” said Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, in a statement. “For decarbonization solutions and technologies to transform our economy, they need to be scaled. To do that, they need patient, well-managed capital to support their vital goals. This partnership will help define climate solutions as a standalone asset class that is both essential to our collective mission and a historic investment opportunity created by the net zero transition.”
To get a sense of what Decarbonization Partners might back, companies should probably look to the Breakthrough Energy portfolio — the firms share similar interests in new sources of energy, technologies to distribute that energy, building and manufacturing technologies, and material science and process innovations.
It’s a big swing that the firms are taking, but the flood of capital coming into the sustainability sector is commensurate with both the size of the problem, and the potential opportunity in returns generated by solving it.
A report from Morgan Stanley estimated that solving climate change would be a $50 trillion problem, according to a 2019 report from Forbes.
“Bold, aggressive actions are needed to make the global net zero ambition a reality. Decarbonization Partners represents one of several steps we are taking to follow through on our commitment to halve the emissions from our portfolio by 2030, and ultimately move to net zero emissions by 2050,” said Dilhan Pillay, Chief Executive Officer of Temasek International. “Through collective efforts with like-minded partners, we will be able to create sustainable value for all of our stakeholders over the long term, and investors will have the opportunity to help deliver innovative solutions at scale to address climate challenges.”
Andium, a company focused on remote field monitoring of assets including oil and gas wells has just raised some not-insignificant cash in an investment round led by OGCI Climate Investments, a firm formed by the largest oil companies in the world.
Launched in 2014 to “support” the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement to limit global greenhouse gas emissions, OGCI has invested in 21 projects to date.
With Andium, the oil majors join existing investors including Tom Miglis, the former chief investment officer of Citadel Securities and Talis Capital in backing a company developing technologies for natural gas flare monitoring, tank telemetry and object detection.
The company said it provides oil and gas companies with real-time information from remote locations at a far lower cost than other solutions.
Few technologies are less exciting than sensors and monitoring equipment, but there are also few tech services that are more vital to staunching the flow of greenhouse gas emissions. As Mark Tomasovic, a partner at the renewable investment firm, Energize tweeted (to me), “A few companies are involved in monitoring and reducing methane emissions from producing oil and gas wells… Given that there are over [1 million] wells in the U.S. and methane is 28x more potent than CO2, these startups have had more of an impact on global climate change then Tesla.”
A few companies are involved in monitoring and reducing methane emissions from producing oil & gas wells
Given that there are over 1M wells in the U.S. and methane is 28x more potent than CO2, these startups have had more of an impact on global climate change than Tesla
— Mark Tomasovic (@MarkTomasovic) April 6, 2021
“We believe that visibility is paramount in change leadership and operational excellence, and our remote monitoring technologies are specifically designed to offer companies an expedited path to achieve their sustainability goals,” said Jory Schwach, the chief executive of Andium, in a statement.
Schwach, a serial entrepreneur whose previous forays into the business world included GlobalRim, a solar global positioning system company, and an offline communications service, started out developing a battery-powered tracking system for the logistics industry.
“I spent the better part of two years building a battery-powered tracking solution for long haul trailers so the market could replace brokers with ‘shared assets’. I failed fast and often on the hardware and realized that the real value was in the continually changing product requests that would be much more easily solved with a software change,” Schwach told the Medium publication Authority Magazine. “I decided that building a new kind of operating system for small devices could be big business if I leveraged the OS to customize products based on changing use cases while managing the hardware and infrastructure on behalf of the client.”
Andium’s technology uses off the shelf cameras and microphones with an artificial intelligence overlay to provide real-time monitoring of all sorts of industrial assets.
“The transparency created by monitoring and measuring methane is essential to reducing emissions,” said Pratima Rangarajan, CEO of OGCI Climate Investments. “Andium’s low-cost innovative solution lowers the barrier for operators of all sizes to adopt and implement best practices and we are pleased to support their growth.”
The energy giant Shell has joined a slew of strategic investors — including All Nippon Airways, Suncor Energy, Mitsui and British Airways — in funding LanzaJet, the company commercializing a process to convert alcohol into jet fuel.
A spin-off from LanzaTech, one of the last surviving climate tech startups from the first cleantech boom that’s still privately held, LanzaJet is taking a phased investment approach with its corporate backers, enabling them to invest additional capital as the company scales to larger production facilities.
Terms of the initial investment, or LanzaJet’s valuation after the commitment, were not disclosed.
LanzaJet claims that it can help the aviation industry reach net-zero emissions, something that would go a long way toward helping the world meet the emissions reductions targets set in the Paris Agreement.
“LanzaJet’s technology opens up a new and exciting pathway to produce SAF using an AtJ process and will help address the aviation sector’s urgent need for SAF. It demonstrates that the industry can move faster and deliver more when we all work together,” said Anna Mascolo, president, Shell Aviation, in a statement. “Provided industry, government and society collaborate on appropriate policy mechanisms and regulations to drive both supply and demand, aviation can achieve net-zero carbon emissions. The strategic fit with LanzaJet is exciting.”
LanzaJet is currently building an alcohol-to-jet fuel facility in Soperton, Georgia. Upon completion it would be the first commercial-scale plant for sustainable synthetic jet fuel with a capacity of 10 million gallons per year.
The fuel is made by using ethanol inputs — something that Shell is very familiar with. It’s also something that the oil giant has in ready supply. Through the Raízen joint venture in Brazil, Shell has been producing bio-ethanol for more than 10 years.
The company expects that its sustainable fuel will be mixed with conventional fossil jet fuel to power airplanes in a lower carbon intensity way. Roughly 90% of the company’s production output will be aviation fuel, while the remaining 10% will be renewable diesel, the company said.
LanzaJet’s SAF is approved to be blended up to 50% with fossil jet fuel, the maximum allowed by ASTM, and is a drop-in fuel that requires no modifications to engines, aircraft and infrastructure. Additionally, LanzaJet’s SAF delivers more than a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis, compared to conventional fossil jet fuel. The versatility in ethanol, and a focus on low carbon, waste-based and nonfood/nonfeed sources, along with ethanol’s global availability, make LanzaJet’s technology a relevant and enduring solution for SAF.
Data centers and bitcoin mining operations are becoming huge energy hogs, and the explosive growth of both risks undoing a lot of the progress that’s been made to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s one of the major criticisms of cryptocurrency operations and something that many in the industry are trying to address.
The company, which was formerly known as Allied Control Limited, restructured as a commercial operating company headquartered in the Netherlands with commercial operations in the U.S. and research and development in Hong Kong, according to a statement.
It was first acquired by Bitfury in 2015 after building a two-phase immersion cooling 500kW data center in Hong Kong, that purportedly cut energy consumption by 95% versus traditional air cooling technologies. Later, the companies jointly deployed 160 megawatts of two-phase immersion-cooled data centers.
“Bitfury has been innovating across multiple industries and sees major growth opportunities with LiquidStack’s game-changing cooling solutions for compute-intensive applications and infrastructure,” said Valery Vavilov, CEO of Bitfury. “I believe LiquidStack’s leadership team, together with our customers and strategic support from Wiwynn, will rapidly accelerate the global adoption and deployment of two-phase immersion cooling.”
The $10 million in funding came from the Taiwanese conglomerate Wiwynn, a data center and infrastructure developer with revenues of $6.3 billion last year.
“Wiwynn continues to invest in advanced cooling solutions to address the challenges of fast-growing power consumption and density for cloud computing, AI, and HPC,” said Emily Hong, chief executive of Wiwynn, in a statement.
In a statement, LiquidStack said its technology could enable at least 21 times more heat rejection per IT rack compared to air cooling — all without the need for water. The company said its cooling method results in a 41% reduction in energy used for cooling and a 60% reduction in data center space.
“Bitfury has always been focused on leading by example and is a technology driven company from the top of the organization, to its grass roots,” said Joe Capes, co-founder and chief executive of LiquidStack, in a statement. “Launching LiquidStack with new funding enables us to focus on our strengths and capabilities, accelerating the development of liquid cooling technology, products and services to help solve real thermal and sustainability challenges driven by the adoption of cloud services, AI, edge and high-performance computing.”
The Brazilian-based pan-Latin American food delivery startup iFood has announced a series of initiatives designed to reduce the company’s environmental impact as consumers push companies to focus more on sustainability.
The program has two main components — one focused on plastic pollution and waste and another aiming to become carbon neutral in its operations by 2025.
Perhaps the most ambitious, and surely the most capital intensive of the company’s waste reduction initiatives is the development of a semi-automated recycling facility in Sao Paulo.
“We want to transform the entire supply chain for plastic-free packaging in Brazil. By controlling the national supply chain, from production to marketing and logistics, we can offer more competitive pricing for packaging to industries that already exist but do not have a scale of production and demand today,” said Gustavo Vitti, the chief people and sustainability officer at iFood.
The company has also created an in-app option that allows customers to decline plastic cutlery when they’re getting their food delivered.
“These initiatives will contribute to reducing the consumption of plastic items, which are often sent without being requested and end up going unused into the garbage bin,” said Vitti. “In the first tests that we did, 90 percent of consumers used the resource, which resulted in the reduction of tens of thousands of plastic cutlery and shows our consumers’ desire to receive less waste in their homes.”
On the emissions front, the company will work with Moss.Earth, a technology company in the carbon market, which developed the GHG inventory to offset its emissions by buying credits tied to environmental preservation and reforestation projects.
But the company is also working Tembici, a provider of electric bikes in Brazil to move its delivery fleet off of internal combustion powered mopeds or scooters.
“We know that compensation alone is not enough. It is necessary to think of innovative ways to reduce CO2 emissions. In October last year, we launched the iFood Pedal program, in partnership with Tembici, a project developed exclusively for couriers that offers affordable plans for renting electric bikes,” said Vitti. “Currently, more than 2,000 couriers are registered and are sharing 1,000 electric bikes in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in addition to the educational aspect of program that we have contemplated. With good adherence indicators, our plan is to gradually expand the project, taking it to other cities and, thus, increase our percentage of clean deliveries.”
The Brazilian electric motorcycle company, Voltz Motors is also working with iFood, which ordered 30 electric motorcycles for use by some of its delivery partners. The company hopes to roll out more than 10,000 motorcycles over the next 12 months.
Coupled with internal facing initiatives to improve water reuse, deploy renewable energy and develop a green roof at its Osasco headquarters, iFood is hoping to hit sustainability goals that can improve the environment across Brazil and beyond.
“We know that we have a long way to go, but we trust that together with important partners and this set of initiatives, in addition to others that are under development, it will be possible to reduce plastic generation and CO2 emissions impact on the environment. Our relevance and presence in the lives of Brazilian families further reinforces the importance of these environmental commitments for the planet,” said Vitti.
The Los Angeles-based company, which has raised roughly $250 million from investors including the celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition, and Orlando Bloom and more traditional institutional investors like AlphaEdison, Capricorn Investment Group, the Omidyar Network, and Allen & Co., wouldn’t say how much about the terms of the card or the credit limits available.
What Aspiration co-founder Andrei Cherny did discuss was the company’s sense of the significance of its new offering.
“There are plenty of credit cards out there that let you rack up miles, this is the only card that rewards you for taking miles off of the planet,” Aspiration co-founder and CEO Andrei Cherny said in a statement. “For the first time, you can have a climate change-fighting tool right in your wallet.”
The key to Aspiration’s offset services is nothing more or less than tree planting. It’s the easiest way for consumers to eventually cancel out the greenhouse gas emissions associated with daily living in the U.S.
Every time someone uses the card, Aspiration will have one of its global reforestation partners plant a tree. If a customer uses Aspiration’s credit card 60 times, the resulting trees that are planted are enough to offset the carbon emissions from an average American home
“What we’re doing is basing it on the average American’s carbon footprint,” Cherny affirmed. “Every time you make a purchase Aspiration plants your tree. The way the math works out. The average carbon impact of the average tree when you have 60 of them you eliminate the emissions from an average American home.”
Using Aspiration’s app, which includes other tools for consumers to gauge the social impact of their purchases, credit card customers can track their progress towards offsetting their emissions. For every month in which a user gets to carbon zero, Aspiration will reward them with 1% cashback on their credit card purchases.
Cherny said the company works with accredited partners and uses satellite imaging and on-the-ground monitoring to ensure that the forestation projects are proceeding according to plan and that the trees aren’t being harvested.
The company isn’t just doing this out of a sense of corporate responsibility there’s actually an arbitrage case where the planting of seeds becomes a profit center (however nominal) for the company.
“As we get to scale that will be the case,” Cherny said. “We are not a nonprofit, we’re a for-profit company dedicated to saving the planet. Until people can make a profit off of saving the planet in the same way people have been profiting on destroying the planet, there are going to continue to be problems… If only oil companies and incumbent banks can make money by destroying the planet, then we’re in trouble.”
In a recent interview discussing Bill Gates’ recent book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster“, the Microsoft and Breakthrough Energy founder (and the world’s third wealthiest man) advocated for citizens of the richest countries in the world to switch to diets consisting entirely of what he called synthetic meat in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Gates’ call is being met by startups and public companies hailing from everywhere from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, London to Los Angeles, and Berkeley to… um… Chicago.
Indeed, two of the best funded companies in the lab-grown meat market hail from The Netherlands, where Mosa Meat is being challenged by a newer upstart, Meatable, which just announced $47 million in new financing.
The company aims to have its first product approved by European regulators by 2023 and notching commercial sales by 2025.
Meatable has a long road ahead of it, because, as Gates acknowledged in his interview with MIT Technology Review (ed. note: I’m available for a call, too, Bill), “the people like Memphis Meats who do it at a cellular level—I don’t know that that will ever be economical.”
Beyond the economics, there’s also the open question of whether consumers will be willing to make the switch to lab grown meat. Some companies, like the San Francisco-based Just Foods and Tel Aviv’s Supermeat are already selling chicken patties and nuggets made from cultured cells at select restaurants.
These products don’t get at the full potential for cellular technology according to Daan Luining, Meatable’s chief technology officer. “We have seen the nugget and the chicken burger, but we’re working on whole muscle tissue,” Luining said.
The sheer number of entrants in the category — and the capital they’ve raised — points to the opportunity for several winners if companies can walk the tightrope balancing cost at scale and quality replacements for free range food.
“The mission of the company is to be a global leader in providing proteins for the planet. Pork and beef and regularly eaten cuts have on environmental and land management,” Luining said. “The technology that we are using allows us to go into different species. First we’re focused on the animals that have the biggest impact on climate change and planetary health.”
For Meatable right now, price remains an issue. The company is currently producing meat at roughly $10,000 per pound, but, unlike its competitors, the company said it is producing whole meat. That’s including the fat and connective tissue that makes meat… well… meat.
Now with 35 employees and new financing, the company is trying to shift from research and development into a food production company. Strategic investors like DSM, one of the largest food biotech companies in Europe should help. So should angel investors like Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, the executive chairman of Vertex Pharmaceuticals; and Dr. Rick Klausner, the former executive director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a founder of Juno Therapeutics, GRAIL, and Mindstrong Health, after leaving Illumina where he served as chief medical officer.
Institutional investors in the company’s latest round include Google Ventures founder Bill Maris’ new fund, Section 32, and existing investors like: BlueYard Capital, Agronomics, Humboldt, and Taavet Hinrikus.
The company’s first commercial offering will likely be a lab-grown pork product, but with expanded facilities in Delft, the location of one of the top universities in The Netherlands, a beef product may not be far behind.
“[Meatable has] a great team and game-changing technology that can address the challenges around the global food insecurity issues our planet is facing,” said Klausner. “They have all the right ingredients to become the leading choice for sustainably and efficiently produced meat.”
Yesterday, the European oil and gas major producer Shell announced the latest cohort selected to participate in its Shell GameChanger Accelerator (GCxN), focused on supporting companies developing tech for the transition away from fossil fuels.
The three companies will have access to technical resources through Shell that can serve to aid in their commercialization.
“GCxN’s fourth cohort will help prove that electrochemistry technologies can replace carbon-intensive legacy processes. As renewable energy costs continue to drop, cross-industry initiatives and partnerships will prove that it’s possible to cost-effectively scale these technology applications and achieve real-world impact,” said Haibin Xu, Shell’s GCxN program manager.
Shell’s acceleartor provides startups selected for the program with up to $250,000 in non-dilutive financing. Participants are nominated by network partners coming from incubators, accelerators, and universities and then are subjected to a screening process by Shell and NREL.
Graduates of the program have raised $52 million in the three prevoius batches and have added 51 new jobs to the green economy, according to a statement.
Each of the new companies in the cohort are focused on creating ways to reduce carbon emissions in sectors that are carbon intensive and hard to transition to more sustainable practices, according to a statement.
So without further ado, here’s the latest batch of startups backed by Shell:
“Almost every aspect of our modern lives depends on certain materials and fuels, but with great consequence. For example, the American manufacturing industry is on-track to become the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions within the next ten years,” said Katie Richardson, GCxN program manager at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in a statement. “The selected GCxN startups are restructuring essential building blocks to reduce the carbon impact of essential goods and services.”
It seems that every week a new agribusiness, consumer packaged goods company, bank, technology corporation, celebrity or Facebook friend announces support for regenerative agriculture.
For those of us who have been working on climate and/or agriculture solutions for the last couple of decades, this is both exciting and worrisome.
With the rush to be a part of something so important, the details and hard work, the incremental advancements and wins, as well as the big, hairy problems that remain can be overlooked or forgotten. When so many are swinging for the fences, it’s easy to forget that singles and doubles usually win the game.
As a managing partner and founder of DBL Partners, I have specifically sought out companies to invest in that not only have winning business models but also solve the planet’s biggest problems. I believe that agriculture can be a leading climate solution while feeding a growing population.
At the same time, I want to temper the hype, refocus the conversation and use the example of agriculture to forge a productive template for all business sectors with carbon habits to fight climate change.
First, let’s define regenerative agriculture: It encompasses practices such as cover cropping and conservation tillage that, among other things, build soil health, enhance water retention, and sequester and abate carbon.
The broad excitement around regenerative agriculture is tied to its potential to mitigate climate impact at scale. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine estimates that soil sequestration has the potential to eliminate over 250 million metric tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to 5% of U.S. emissions.
It is important to remember that regenerative practices are not new. Conservationists have advocated for cover cropping and reduced tillage for decades, and farmers have led the charge.
The reason these practices are newly revered today is that, when executed at scale, with the heft of new technology and innovation, they have demonstrated agriculture’s potential to lead the fight against climate change.
So how do we empower farmers in this carbon fight?
Today, offset markets get the majority of the attention. Multiple private, voluntary markets for soil carbon have appeared in the last couple of years, mostly supported by corporations driven by carbon neutrality commitments to offset their carbon emissions with credit purchases.
Offset markets are a key step toward making agriculture a catalyst for a large-scale climate solution; organizations that support private carbon markets build capacity and the economic incentive to reduce emissions.
“Farming carbon” will drive demand for regenerative finance mechanisms, data analytics tools and new technology like nitrogen-fixing biologicals — all imperatives to maximize the adoption and impact of regenerative practices and spur innovation and entrepreneurship.
It’s these advancements, and not the carbon credit offsets themselves, that will permanently reduce agriculture emissions.
Offsets are a start, but they are only part of the solution. Whether generated by forestry, renewable energy, transportation or agriculture, offsets must be purchased by organizations year after year, and do not necessarily reduce a buyer’s footprint.
Inevitably, each business sector needs to decarbonize its footprint directly or create “insets” by lowering the emissions within its supply chain. The challenge is, this is not yet economically viable or logistically feasible for every organization.
For organizations that purchase and process agricultural products — from food companies to renewable fuel producers — soil carbon offsets can indirectly reduce emissions immediately while also funding strategies that directly reduce emissions permanently, starting at the farm.
DBL invests in ag companies that work on both sides of this coin: facilitating soil carbon offset generation and establishing a credit market while also building fundamentally more efficient and less carbon-intensive agribusiness supply chains.
This approach is a smart investment for agriculture players looking to reduce their climate impact. The business model also creates demand for environmental services from farmers with real staying power.
Way back in 2006, when DBL first invested in Tesla, we had no idea we would be helping to create a worldwide movement to unhinge transportation from fossil fuels.
Now, it’s agriculture’s turn. Backed by innovations in science, big data, financing and farmer networking, investing in regenerative agriculture promises to slash farming’s carbon footprint while rewarding farmers for their stewardship.
Future generations will reap the benefits of this transition, all the while asking, “What took so long?”