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What these 30 climate focussed investors think founders should be working on

AI predictions to recycling innovations, insurance tech solutions to alternative feedstocks

The world’s largest environmental movement Earth Day is coming up this Saturday.

To help us highlight this years theme ‘invest in our planet’, we reached out to 30 active Food and Climate investors to hear which technologies they’re most excited by, and their advice to founders navigating the current fundraising environment.

From from precision fermentation to hydrogen electrolysis, AI predictions to recycling innovations, insurance tech solutions to alternative feedstocks - and everything in-between. Let’s jump in..

Come and meet with many of these featured investors on May 11 & 12th at the HackSummit in Lausanne.

With just three weeks to go until doors open, the event is shaping up to be the largest gathering of climate focussed founders and investors in Europe - with over 100+ speakers and 80+ exhibitors already confirmed attending.

Use code EARTHDAY20 to save 20% on your pass (valid until Sunday 23rd April).

Jessica Burley @ Planet A Ventures

  • More efficient approaches to hydrogen electrolysis

  • Clean high temperature heat for industrial use-cases

  • Cost efficient long duration energy storage using widely available materials

Christian Guba @ FoodLabs

  • Climate x Agtech: Innovations in animal feed to reduce methane emissions, fertilizers that fix nitrous oxide, and enhanced rock weathering for carbon sequestration

  • Solid-state fermentation applications which are more robust, easier to scale, and require less capital expenditure than other approaches

  • Generative machine learning models that use multimodal data to improve protein structure predictions

Fundraising tips? "Non-dilutive grants can be a great way to fund impact-driven startups without giving up equity. Also consider the amount of funding needed and whether or not VC funding is actually the right fit and finally, seek out investors who share your vision with an extensive longlist (it’s a numbers game)."

Tong Gu @ Pact VC

  • Recycling for businesses

  • Smart Logistics

  • Climate X insurtech

Fundraising Tips: "Lead your narrative with a long term vision (to get people excited) but also back it up with what you have done to-date to demonstrate you are the right team to make it a success. Understanding your unit economics and how to grow while improving the UE is key for the current fundraising environment."

Peter Schmetz @ Vorwerk Ventures

  • Verification of carbon credits

  • Biodegradable packaging

  • Functional ingredients

  • Supply chain transparency and efficiency

  • Hybrid technologies in FoodTech (Extrusion x Fermentation e.g.)

Fundraising Tips? "In the case of a non-revenue generating, tech-relying businesses should make sure to have a clear path to market while also being clear in communicating your milestones. In the case of an already revenue-generating business, show a realistic path to profitability while also being prepared for steep growth scenarios."

Steven Finn @ Siddhi Capital

  • Precision fermentation capacity and infrastructure

  • Needle moving enabling tech in cell culture

  • Agricultural water recovery

Fundraising tips? "Give it time! I used to tell people to give it 6 months, now I say 9-12. Don't plan to raise significant capital to do everything. Raise 2 years of runway - a little bit more than what you need to hit specific focused milestones."

Catia Cesari @ Volta Circle

  • Deep learning model application to materials science and synbio

  • Scalable nature-based carbon sequestration

  • Carbon mineralisation

  • Low-pressure, low-heat ammonia production processes

  • Blockchain-based technologies applied to biodiversity

Maximilian Bade @ Nucleus Capital

  • Synbio-enabled green chemicals to substitute petrochemical derived ingredients.

  • Biomass fermentation without agricultural feedstocks, effectively decoupling food production from arable land.

  • Generative AI for biological intelligence: Optimizing experiment design and pot. molecule discovery.

Fundraising tips? "Optimise for the right syndicate composition in your first round (functional value add, network, follow-on financing). Don't optimize on valuation before you have found PMF!"

Tamara Giltsoff @ Anthemis Group

  • Soil visibility and microbial measuring: sensing and measuring soil health and human microbial gut health

  • Spatial analysis of ecosystems: 3D data analysis, mapping growth of new trees, light detection sensing, drone and satellite data sensors

  • Computational agroecology: using technology and and farming expertise to model diverse agricultural landscapes based on natural ecosystems

Gil Hosky @ Flora Ventures

  • Sustainable packaging: New materials and technologies in the sustainable packaging space, that are both more sustainable and also finally becoming more scalable and affordable

  • Food as medicine: Emergence of new technologies around precision nutrition and new research that is being applied to scientifically validate the efficacy and benefits of functional ingredients and nutraceuticals, such as: medicinal mushrooms, nootropics and adaptogens.

  • Regenerative agriculture: The validation and scaling of regenerative practices across the industry

Fundraising tips? "Entrepreneurs are hustlers and don’t be shy to knock on every door they can. Fundraising is all about momentum, so try to get initial commitments for your round from existing investors or friends and family and on the back of that to get momentum to bring other investors in. AgriFood-Tech entrepreneurs (even early stage ones) should showcase investors a clear path to commercialisation within short-medium time while solving a real unmet consumer or industry needs."

Laura Estankona @ Rumbo Ventures

  • Innovation in CCUS (Carbon capture, use and storage) is essential, since we will need to remove carbon from the atmosphere to stay below 1,5ºC. Therefore, we look for technologies like direct air capture (DAC) and other forms of capturing CO2 (like with microalgae!).

  • New materials are currently a growing market. For example, the processing of seaweed for the cosmetics industry or capturing CO2 to convert it into cellulose for materials in the fashion industry.

  • Climate softwares that combines ML and AI technologies, can help to improve the traceability of the high-quality carbon credits.

Laura recommends: "When fundraising I would make sure you do have some profile in your team who is an expert on the field you are starting your venture, that gives you credibility, especially in a technical sector like climate-tech. Also, have a clear path to profitability and be flexible to pivot your project and adjust it to the sector & market needs. I would also suggest being up-to-date with current ongoing changes in regulation that affect the environmental field."

Greg Michel @ Cell Capital

  • Progress in remote sensing: The appearance of new satellites with multispectral and hyperspectral sensors will open the door to much more accuracy in measuring vegetation growth and biomass. These technologies will be the necessary infrastructure on which true precision farming at scale will be developed.

  • Plantbased 2.0: There is now room for new entrants to truly crack the taste, texture, health and nutrition profile.

  • Microalgae: More and more companies are working to leverage some of their amazing properties as valuable biochemical compounds generators of proteins, omega-3s, lipids, pigments and as an input for the cosmetics and biofuel industries

Fundraising Tips? "Back to the lean methodology: focus on piloting/ commercialising your product or part of it even if it’s not perfect, show you have initial traction. Get in touch with VCs well ahead of when you need to raise, keep them updated as you execute against your roadmap."

Erika Hombert @ HackCapital

  • Technologies that speed up the adoption of regenerative farming practices. From AI and data services to fungal and microbial solutions.

  • Innovations moving us from petroleum based products and processes, for example in packaging and chemicals.

  • Carbon sequestration technologies with outstanding teams.

  • Still bullish on fungi! Nutrition, materials, waste recycling, therapeutics - it’s amazing what this branch of species can be used for!

Fundraising tips? "Don't stop believing in a better future. Be realistic, especially regarding the current investment climate and the climate challenges ahead, but don't get too wrapped up in the current cultural negativity. In order to build a sustainable and prosperous future we must be able to envision it first! I feel there are too few stories on what the end game is. All great changemakers in history have held their dreams independent of the environment they were in."

Daniel Skaven Ruben - Angel Investor

  • AI in general (across many application areas!)

  • Fossil-free fertiliser

  • Solutions to cut food waste

  • Sustainable packaging

  • Improved infrastructure and ingredients to better enable the alt protein ecosystem

Fundraising Tips? "Understand that fundraising processes (including due diligence) take a long time, that valuations have fallen drastically, and that many VCs are struggling too. Be crystal clear on your path to profitability. If all else fails, rebrand as a ClimateTech company as there still seems to be funding for those startups."

Yael Alroy @ Viola Ventures

  • Fermentation

  • AI tools to predict and deal with climate risk

  • Scope 3 reporting

  • Climate Fintech

Fundraising tips? "Founders fundraising their first/next investment should prioritize shaping a robust business model, validating it with potential customers, and having a clear G2M strategy, in addition to focusing on technology. Understanding the market, showing a path to revenue, and having a strong, solid and experienced team are also key for successful fundraising in this current environment."

Josef Seidl - Angel Investor

  • AI Technologies e.g. for optimising resource usage, emission leak detection or real estate investment planning

  • MRV for biodiversity

  • Climate risk analysis

  • Enhanced weathering

  • Waste heat recovery

Fundraising tips? "Regardless of the current economic situation, it remains very critical for founders to focus and solve a real and big customer problem (painkillers instead of vitamins). The big opportunity right now: It's easier to hire some great tech talents because of recent layoffs (tip: layoffs.fyi)."

Erin Culley - Angel Investor

  • Making use of upcycling food/agriculture waste

  • Regenerative agriculture

  • Valorising waste streams

Markus Pfeiffer @ Bloom Partners

  • Monitoring of carbon saturation to maintain the health of ecosystems

  • Thermal picture evaluations to monitor the health of crops

  • Data-driven supply chain optimisation

  • Lab-grown meat and fish and the production of 3D-printed meat products

Fundraising Tips? “Buzz” technologies such as Blockchain and AI are relevant, but only if backed by credible evidence! Real differentiation of the product/service, solid proof of product/market fit (beyond a handful of friendly customers), and being bold in terms of valuation and fundraising asks, demonstrates confidence in a company's potential for growth and success. Don’t let yourself be dragged into bargain deals!”

Steve Molino @ Clear Current Capital

  • Biomass fermentation has a strong value prop for consumers around health/nutrition and sustainability, while also having large potential as a functional ingredient

  • Sidestream valorization / upcycling of waste streams into vital inputs into other alt protein applications (i.e., feedstock for precision fermentation, protein concentrates/isolates for plant-based, etc.)

  • Tech that allows us to disconnect food production from ag (i.e., thermochemistry, gas fermentation, etc.)

  • Innovative financing mechanisms for bioeconomy infrastructure

  • Solutions around micro & macro algae to unlock the ocean as a protein source

Hadar Sutovsky @ ICL Planet

  • We need to focus our attention on the scale, speed, and impact of the new food evolution, I identify the most exciting investment themes along the value chain that requires continued technological innovation regarding the means to scale up production to industrial levels

  • Food-as-Software: Huge opportunities will emerge in many areas of biotechnology and software, including product simulation and testing, AI, molecular databases, and gene sequencing and editing.

  • Carbon negative proteins and food ingredients: Making animal free, planet-friendly, carbon neutral protein out of thin air and microbes

Fundraising tips? : "Fundraising in this macro environment has become challenging and is expected to see continued slowdown in H01 2023, that’s a fact. My advice is partnership. Partnering with a larger company or joining a corporate incubator or accelerator can be a good way for startups to access new markets, customers, resources while also accessing smart funding."

David Kappeler @ Foundation for Technological Innovation

  • Energy production and storage

  • Sustainable agriculture and food

  • Alternatives to plastic packaging

  • CO2 capture technology

  • Water consumption management

  • Self-healing composites

Fundraising tips? "Be aware that the current context is rather tough and therefore the fundraising time is longer (x2). For startups in their first round of financing: first seek non-dilutive aid such as state aids like SPEI or FIT, which are not subject to the same tensions as investors. Then complete with business angel networks (SICTIC, BAS, Verve Ventures). For more mature companies: the first reflex is to ask existing investors to connect with a lead investor for the next round."

Alexandre Luyet @ Conexkt

  • Fusion, despite its immense engineering challenges, presents an opportunity to revolutionize the energy sector, making the risk well worth pursuing.

  • AI's influence on climate and food tech, along with the advancements in synthetic biology, hold the promise of ushering in a new era of sustainability and innovation.

Fundraising tips? "Founders should remain steadfast in their vision while maintaining the flexibility to adapt their strategies. Prioritise the fundamentals: establish a profitable business model, optimise expenses, focus on sales, and extend your runway."

Puja Balachander @ Carbon13

  • Synthetic bio innovations, using microbes other than yeast, and alternative feedstocks

  • Low carbon air conditioning solutions

  • Enabling tech stack for alt protein, for example startups who are reducing costs of growing mediums

Fundraising tips? "Stretch your runway by cutting costs, and looking into equity free sources of funding, even small amounts like equity free accelerators, or community/university grants. Get creative about showing you have product and commercial traction. For example, maybe you can't get a paid pilot or LOI, but you can still show you have strong relationships with customers by producing co-branded content, research reports, etc."

Antony Yousefian @ The First Thirty

  • Nutrient density measurement tech for food: Making it possible to scan food and see it's actually nutrient density, for example from its vitamin to antioxidants. Nutrient/health tech is ClimateTech. It is going to be huge, as it will enable food to capture value from other sectors like insurance and healthcare.

  • Epigenomics: Understanding RNA expression in plants and animals, and understanding how the environment is impacting our gene expression.

  • Ambient IoT (Traceability): Printed sensing technology, at the cost of pennies. Computers effectively the size of postage stamps, can be tagged now on anything, including food. This is going to be the infrastructure for digital supply chains and eventual optimisation.

Fundraising tips? "With lifting interest rates, return on capital is going to increase for VC and thus on start-ups themselves. So start-ups need to show either clearer returns on capital in business plans, if revenue or traction is not there today. Traction, traction traction, focus, focus , focus."

Lauren Abda @ Branch Venture Group

  • Upcycling food that would otherwise be wasted

  • Technologies to extend product shelf life

Fundraising tips? "Focus on the fundamentals - a clear value-add, distinct differentiators, and a reasonable valuation. Time spent building rapport with investors who share your vision and updating them regularly on your developments whether you are fundraising or not, is always time well spent."

Jonathan Berger @ The Kitchen

  • Molecular farming: Using molecular biology and plant sciences to produce ingredients in a more sustainable way using less resources and reducing waste.

  • Cell cultivation: I believe that cell cultivation will eventually be price competitive without compromising on safety and nutrition. We head rapidly in this direction and the impact on resource utilization will be enormous.

  • Precision fermentation: With big data and AI we will see dramatic improvements and cost reduction. I also believe that some current capacity challenges will be resolved soon.

  • Personalised nutrition: With AI and strong computing power we will be able to connect food and health and have more tailor-made nutrition to meet people needs

Fundraising tips? "Try to better understand what your investors are facing – the appetite of their LPs, the pressure on returns, the back to basics on valuations. Build the relations with investors before fundraising and familiarise them with your story. Try to simplify your operation and show strong metrics with as low risk as possible. Be explicit on your KPIs."

Dominique P. Locher - Angel Investor

  • Sustainable packaging

  • Pollination

  • Smart vending

  • Food delivery

Fundraising Tips: “Generate clear value with your vision, be truthfully mission-driven, be contagious with your passion, and start building early relationships with investors and not only when you desperately need cash since the runway is short!”

Marika King @ Pinc, Paulig Venture Arm

  • Crop genetics and biostimulants to improve yield, resilience and nutrition

  • Tools for MRV of climate footprint in the agrifood value chain with the ultimate aim to reduce footprint and improve overall sustainability of farming, including biodiversity.

  • Enabling tech to make plant-based alternatives easier, clean label and more nutritious. Technologies include precision fermentation-based alternative fats or spinning technologies to make fibers that mimic muscles.

  • Cell-cultured meat

  • Nutritious, functional and high value ingredients through upcycling of sidestreams and other solutions to reduce food waste.

Fundraising Tips? “Investments in FoodTech have dropped 80% since the end of the peak in Q1 2022 so understandably there are challenges. Still, deals are being made and money needs to be deployed. It does take longer though, so reduce burn rate and try to prolong your runway. Also, look for investors who can really deliver value and will support you long term.“

Paul Rous @ Regenerate Ventures

  • Biologicals: New Biostimulants and Biofungicides that will look to replace fertilisers and chemicals while still maintaining yields.

  • Data: The use of AI and improved data sets to enable better precision agriculture. Looking at improved soil data sets and benchmarking through to providing better data for remote sensing (satellite imagery).

Michael Goblirsch @ Square One Foods

  • Alternative proteins (plant-based, cell-based)

  • Regenerative agriculture

  • Traceability and environmental impact measurement method for food products

  • Gut health and the microbiome

Fundraising tips? "Be realistic with your valuation; adaptable and flexible (with your ticket size/ terms); show traction and a clear understanding of your market and know your numbers; seek feedback and advice from experienced entrepreneurs and prepare for difficult funding until mid 2024."

Frédéric Krebs - Angel Investor

  • Carbon capture / carbon removal / methane removal

  • Energy storage

  • Alt-meat that taste really good

  • Adaptation technologies

Frédéric's advice: "Be extremely active when it comes to funding your startup. It’s a full-time job and it takes months to be known, recognised, and retained. So get out of your office or lab, meet VCs or angel investors every single day. Use Zoom for more time efficiency but it is harder to make a great impression. Trust the process because in the end, you will inevitably get a network effect through it. You will be contacted. If not, question your technology, your team, your business model, or… your skill at fundraising."


Piotr Grabowski @ AC/VC Foodtech Impact Fund

  • Mycelium-based technologies at the intersection of food and health / mental health

  • Food waste reduction and supply chain management solutions

  • Data collection and decision-making support solutions for the farming industry

Fundraising Tips? "At the moment fundraising, more than ever, requires patience, persistence and a really entrepreneurial mindset. Do your work, maybe slower, but consistently. Go as far as possible. These are not days of high salaries, redundant costs and extensive marketing budgets. Be honest with your team what the situation looks like, do not overpromise and remember to reward them when the coin flips. Also ask for help and take care of yourself. If your mind and body are not right, your business won’t be either."

Want to meet these investors and dig deeper? Come join us all at the HackSummit and let’s catch up in person. Hope to see you there 👋