🌾 ClimateHack Vol 13: Fertilizers x Climate

PLUS: Batteries from crab shells, Patagonia's new owner, and advice on operating effectively

Hey There,

For the capital allocators reading - I just listened to a great podcast with Keith Rabois, co-founder and GP at Founders Fund (early investors in Stripe, Airbnb, Flexport, Figma and more)

It has nothing to do with Climate - but I put together the 6 key takeaways here that touch upon becoming a better investor and operator - point #6 is one I'm actively trying to work on in the next quarter.

Anywho - enjoy today's newsletter, it's been a busy week in Climate!

What’s in today's edition? 🦀 Batteries made from crab shells and zinc. 🙌 Patagonia’s big move to fight the climate crisis.🌾 Why we need to be talking about our fertilisers problem.

Digest x Climate

👏 Billionaire Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has given away his company, transferring its ownership to a nonprofit, meaning that all of the outdoor apparel firm’s future profits will now be used to fight the climate crisis.

📈 What’s up? Sifted has analysed Europe’s fastest-growing climate tech startups.

🇪🇺 The European Parliament has backed a proposed law to ban the sale of agricultural products linked to deforestation. Once the law is approved, businesses will be required to ensure that their agricultural goods do not contribute to deforestation anywhere in the world, which could be bad news for soy, cattle, palm oil, wood, cocoa, and coffee, among others.

💡 Good read: As we come to the end of a truly scorching summer, Green Queen asks if we should name heat waves like we name hurricanes, to acknowledge the extreme heat crisis instead of it remaining a “silent killer”.

Carbon x Climate

🌎 Patch raised $55 million Series B funding for its platform that helps businesses to take climate action by making it easier to strike deals in the voluntary carbon market.

🏠 Estonian startup Arbonics raised €1.8 million pre-seed funding to help landowners to analyse and calculate the ability of their land to absorb carbon, and look at unused land and existing forests which may generate carbon credits.

💨 Berlin-based climate tech NeoCarbon closed a €1.25 million pre-seed funding round, co-led by PropTech1 and Speedinvest, to scale its direct air capture devices that can be retrofitted inside working cooling towers in the industrial sector.

💰 Samsung announced its plans to invest more than $5 billion into its global operations and products to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Food x Climate

🍅 GMO Tomato: After nearly 20 years of development, the USDA approved UK-based Norfolk Plant Sciences’ purple tomato for commercial use — significant for its potential health benefits. The team used genes from the snapdragon flower to produce anthocyanin, an antioxidant-rich pigment also found in blackberries that may lower the risk of cancer.

🌾 Bill Gates has called for greater investment in engineered crops that can adapt to climate change and agricultural pests, alongside innovations in farming technology to help reverse the crisis.

🥬 Plenty plans to invest $300 million over the next six years to build what it calls “the largest indoor vertical farm campus in the world”on 120 acres of land in Virginia. The campus would feature several large-scale vertical farms to produce more than 20 million pounds of strawberries, leafy greens, tomatoes and other crops per year.

🚜 The USDA unveiled its plans to invest $400 million in new Regional Food Business Centers to support small and mid-size farm growth and create a more resilient, diverse and competitive food system.

👨‍🌾 ADM and Pepsico, Inc. have signed a 7.5-year strategic commercial agreement to closely collaborate on regenerative agriculture projects across their shared North American supply chains, expected to impact up to 2 million acres by 2030.

Transport x Climate

🔋 TeraWatt Infrastructure, based in San Francisco, raised more than $1 billion Series A funding. The startup has built out a network of charging stations in “strategically relevant” locations for the operation of light- to heavy-duty fleets.

⚡️ Copenhagen-based Monta raised €30 million Series A+ funding to expand operations of its electric vehicle charging management platform, as it aims to “fully digitise the EV ecosystem”.

🔌 Monta secured $30 million at a $155 million valuation from Energize Ventures to expand its EV charging solutions, that make it easier to charge electric vehicles everywhere, into the US market.

🚗 Australian startup Applied EV secured $21 million, in a round led by Japanese auto giant Suzuki, for its vehicle control systems dedicated to autonomous driving applications in electric vehicles.

💰 President Biden announced the first $900 million to build electric vehicle charging stations in 35 states, as part of the new $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

Energy x Climate

☀️ Swedish startup SunRoof raised €15 million, in a round led by Klima, to increase sales and production capacity of its powerful 2-in-1 solar roofs that generate electricity and support a shift to smart energy systems.

🦀 Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a rechargeable battery made from crab shells and zinc that could store wind and solar energy, then either safely biodegrade or be recycled.

Materials / Construction x Climate

👟 London-based Modern Synthesis raised $4.1 million to scale up production of its cellulose-based sneakers, made by bacteria that naturally produce nanocellulose and can be further genetically engineered to also self-dye by producing melanin for colour.

🌊 ZwitterCo raised $33 million to scale up its chemically engineered membrane water filtration technology that helps industrial companies and large farms recycle wastewater, allowing them to use less freshwater.

🏗 alcemy, based in Berlin, closed $10 million in a Series A funding round, co-led by AENU, Galvanize Climate Solutions, firstminute capital, LocalGlobe and La Famiglia, to reduce CO2 emissions of cement and concrete by up to 40 % with its artificial intelligence tech.

Funds x Climate

💰 EQT Growth launched the “biggest first-time European growth fund” at €2.4 billion, focused on health, climate, consumer and enterprise. It’s especially interested in ESG, the electrification of everything, food tech, and food enablement, and will back 20-25 European and Israeli scaleups.

🌎 Telstra Ventures, based in San Francisco, closed its third fund at $500 million to invest in what it calls “all the Cs”: cloud, cyber, crypto, carbon and climate, coders, creators and consumers.

⚡️ Energy Impact Partners launched its European fund, with €390 million from backers including Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund, to invest in energy startups that are working towards a net-zero carbon economy.

🍎 Paris-based Capagro, the “first European independent VC fund dedicated to AgTech and FoodTech”, launched a €200 million fund to support high-potential growing startups working on sustainable agriculture and healthy food.

🌱 PeakBridge secured €100 million in its first closing for its foodtech fund, PeakBridge Growth II. It has already made two investments into alternative protein companies: Rival Foods, based in Holland, and French startup Standing Ovation.

☀️ New European impact fund Junction just closed its initial fundraise at €75 million, and is looking to invest €100 million into green energy tech startups across Europe.

🚀 Not-for-profit climate accelerator Subak is targeting £20 million with its newest funding round, to support its growth into eight locations across six continents by 2025.

Conversations x Climate: Fertilizers

This week I reached out to Christian Guba, Senior Associate at Berlin's FoodLabs - a €100M foodtech fund investing into companies addressing climate and health and investors in the likes of Formo, MushLabs, Klim and many more.

As a pre-read to this - check out with Sam at FoodHack had to say about fertilisers back in November last year.

💡 Biggest area(s) in climate you’d like to see more founders working on and investment going to?

Fertilizers 🌾

Synthetic ammonia — a double-edged sword

The focus of climate discussions is usually on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial production and methane (CH4) emissions from livestock. But there is a lesser known greenhouse gas that is just as problematic: nitrous oxide (N₂O).

Humans use between 2-6% of the earth's energy each year to produce ammonia. It is the most important fertilizer we use to fertilize our crops around the world. People would have starved to death in the mid-20th century without the invention of the Haber-Bosch process to produce ammonia as a synthetic fertilizer — this was an incredible technological breakthrough.

💡 The Haber-Bosch process: is an invention that captures atmospheric nitrogen and combines it with hydrogen extracted from natural gas or coal to produce ammonia on a large scale. Ammonia is the second most widely produced chemical today.

❌ The problem: is that when ammonia sits on the ground too long, it volatilizes, binds with oxygen, and becomes nitrous oxide and is released into the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, it lasts longer and absorbs more heat. As a result, there have long been concerns about the overuse of fertilizers and the overproduction of ammonia, which stays on the soil too long and ultimately causes this staggering greenhouse effect. Worse yet is that farmers usually apply a lot of ammonia to the soil because it gives them higher crop yields.

🌊 The Problem Drivers: The other issues with ammonia is that when it rains, the ammonia goes from the fields into the streams and rivers and eventually into the oceans. For example, in the Gulf of Mexico there is a huge dead zone; where many fish have died because ammonia in the water kills life. In addition, the war in Ukraine has driven up the already exorbitant price of natural gas, which is used to produce nitrogen fertilizer. As a result, energy prices in Europe are so high that some fertilizer companies have closed stores and stopped operating their plants.

What can be done? Four approaches to fertilizers

👩‍🌾 Regenerative agriculture:

  • How: Enabling farmers to move to regenerative agriculture which comes along with better soil diversity, reduced usage for fertilizers (but also cannot replace the need for fertilizers completely).

  • Exemplary start-ups: Klim, Rize, Ruumi


  • How: Using beneficial microorganisms to fixate nitrogen or make phosphate available to the plants. There are also inoculants to promote plant growth.

  • Exemplary start-ups: Pivot Bio, Kula Bio, Joyn Bio

🛰️ Precision farming:

  • How: Efficiently matching fertilizer application with actual soil nutrient needs through data and analytics tools.

  • Exemplary start-ups: Gamaya, Prospera, Cropzilla


  • How: Using locally sourced renewable electricity to fixate nitrogen.

  • Exemplary start-ups: Liquium, Nitricity, Atmonia

🔮 Closing Thoughts: At FoodLabs, we are particularly excited about the potential of microorganisms. Startups that are successful here are characterized by superior use of computational tools to screen and detect microbial strains in a short period of time.

One challenge many startups face is farmers who are already running a fully optimized system and are reluctant to make changes here — sales in the agricultural sector remains difficult.

If you are a start-up working on fertilizers and looking for early-stage funding, feel free to contact me: [email protected] 

Bit of Fun: 

You can almost hear the disappointment.

That's for reading, and have a great weekend ahead and watch this cool video of a capybara running underwater to start your day off right.

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Curated by Nicola & Arman