🇮🇸 ClimateHack Vol 16: Should we all move to Iceland?

PLUS: The gene editing seed company now worth $1.5 billion

Hey There,

This week we have something a little different for you in the Climate x Conversation section. I reached out to Christopher McClure, co-founder and CEO of Icelandic startup Loki Foods to find out why an American expat picked up and moved to Iceland, and why he thinks more Climate founders should too.

Full disclosure - HackCapital is an investor in Loki Foods, but this interview was sparked by my feeling of anxiety about our rising energy costs, how it will affect deeptech businesses (where energy is one of the highest input costs) and some genuine interest to learn more about Iceland's 100% renewable energy grid.

Enjoy the read - and please do let me know what you think at the end.

What’s in today's edition? 🌱 The gene editing seed company now worth $1.5 billion🥤 Why Coca-Cola maybe isn't the best sponsor of a climate conference?🇮🇸 A chat about Iceland and alt-protein with an American expat

Digest x Climate

🥤 The Coca-Cola Company, aka one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters, has been announced as a COP27 sponsor. Maybe, some might say, not the best choice..

📈 What’s up? Strong winds carried extreme heat from North America to Greenland in September, raising the country’s temperature to eight degrees above the 30-year average and causing record ice melt.

📉 What’s down? OPEC, Russia, and other oil-producing countries jointly agreed to cut oil production by two million barrels a day.

🏡 The UK’s National Grid has warned that extremely low gas supplies could mean British homes facing power cuts this winter.

👀 For those keeping tabs on our Demo Day next week - we just announced the line-up of 12 high impact startups that will be pitching then.

📝 Good Read: ESG regulations in Europe are changing; here’s what Sifted thinks startups need to know.

🇺🇸 Good Read : A report by Credit Suisse argues that the Inflation Reduction Act could shape the future of the American economy. Here’s why.

Carbon x Climate

🛒 EcoCart secured $14.5 million Series A funding to drive the sustainable shopping experience. Its platform performs product life cycle audits for its customers to help them calculate, analyse and offset their carbon emissions, providing a way to make carbon-neutral purchases.

🏭 LanzaTech announced a new funding partnership with Brookfield Renewable. The initial $500 million investment will support the co-development and construction of new commercial-scale production plants for its carbon capture transformation technology.

Food x Climate

🌱 Inari raised $124 million Series E funding, at a $1.5 billion valuation, for its seed gene editing tech, designed to “unlock the full potential” of seeds. It will use the funding to scale up product development ahead of commercialisation.

🧫 Gourmey, based in France, raised €48 million Series A funding to scale its cultivated meat products, which include sustainable foie gras alternative, and build a 37,000-square-foot innovation and manufacturing hub.

☕️ Nestlé SA has committed to investing $1 billion by 2030 to support farmers supplying its Nescafe coffee brand with switching to regenerative agriculture practices, in a bid to decarbonise its supply chain.

🍿 Colorado-based snack brand Quinn Snacks, LLC has earned the Climate Friendly attribute from HowGood, an assessment that measures greenhouse gas emissions for food products, and will display Climate Friendly labels on-pack.

🥚 US-based PURIS launched AcreMade plant-based eggs, made with upcycled yellow field peas. The startup’s Upcycled Certified™ pea starch benefits the environment by helping to build soil health and requiring few resources to grow.

🥛 The price of cow’s milk has jumped 36% since January in the UK, making it more expensive than many plant-based alternatives.

Materials x Climate

👟 Swiss running brand On says it has created the first shoe using carbon emissions as a raw material in its foam, made in partnership with LanzaTech, Borealis and Technip Energies, and will bring it to market in 3-5 years.

🍵 Sustainable packaging solutions company ChoosePlanetA has developed The Good Cup, a patented alternative to single-use plastic cups that’s made from bio-based and 100% certified home-compostable paper.

🐛 Scientists at the Biological Research Centre in Madrid have discovered that enzymes in the saliva of wax worms, which are moth larvae that infest beehives, can break down plastic bags within hours at room temperature, a major breakthrough in plastic recycling.

👗 Bella Hadid walked the finale of the Coperni show in a spray-on dress. Here’s how it was made. TLDR? It’s a “liquid fibre, bound together with polymers, bio polymers and greener solvents, that evaporates when the spray reaches a surface”, meaning the material can then be manipulated like any other.

Transport x Climate

💰 Indian startup Euler Motors, which designs and builds commercial electric vehicles, secured $60 million in a Series C funding round led by Singapore’s sovereign fund, GIC, to ramp up its production capacity.

🚗 The Good Car Company, based in Australia, received $10 million from zero emissions activist and investor Eytan Lenko’s philanthropic venture, Boundless, to scale its second-hand electric vehicle platform.

🚲 Also based in Australia, premium e-Cargo bike subscription startup Lug+Carrie raised $5 million in bridge funding to secure more stock for its international expansion plans.

⚡️ Amazon will launch its first fully-electric HGV fleet in Germany by the end of the year, bringing its closer to its goal of decarbonising its fleet and hitting net-zero by 2040.

Energy x Climate

🏭 US energy storage firm Form Energy Inc raised $450 million Series E funding to build its first full-scale manufacturing facility for its low-cost, iron-air battery technology that is capable of storing electricity for 100 hours.

🌊 EU-funded project DARROW is driving the future of wastewater treatment using data intelligence. Its AI technology analyses the composition of wastewater to detect compounds that could provide fertiliser and produce electricity.

💨 Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a low-cost device that can harness and store energy from winds as little as 2 meters per second.

Funds x Climate

🌳 asc announced the first close of its Impact Forestry Fund with €25 million. The funds will support twenty sustainable forestry projects in sub-Saharan Africa, to save 24 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

💰 AXA Group’s alternative investments business, AXA the IM Alts, announced the launch of a new $500 million Natural Capital strategy to support activity that ensures that “vulnerable or high value natural habitats are protected from deforestation”.

🇦🇺 Sydney VC Investible’s $100 million early-stage Climate Tech Fund has backed its first eight companies, including New Zealand-based electric engine startup ZeroJet and carbon finance risk screening tool Emmi.

🇮🇩 Indonesian climate tech venture builder Ecoxyztem received undisclosed funding from TAP Applied Agri Services, Konservasi Hutan Indonesia, and Roni Pramaditia, which will be used to develop at least four startups annually.

💡 Tech Nation and PwC have selected twenty startups to join their first climate tech accelerator, the Net Zero X programme, designed to support late-stage companies in the UK with high emissions reduction potential, including carbon-negative construction firm Adaptavate and direct air capture company Mission Zero Technologies.

Conversations x Climate: Should I move my Climate startup to Iceland? 🇮🇸

Short answer: Absolutely.

As climate-minded people and entrepreneurs, there should be a constant aim to replace the less climate-friendly with the more sustainable ones.

Iceland helps climate startups do this in a number of ways - from a completely renewable energy grid, to a strategic launch pad nestled between Europe and North America. It’s no surprise companies like Climeworks (the world’s most funded carbon removal startup) calls this place home.

But first, some context:

American born and raised, I’ve lived in Iceland now for 9 of 12 years. I was first drawn here back in my graduate student days thanks to, you guessed it, the music scene. My friends and I were big fans of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós (though most think of Björk’s legacy when they think of Icelandic music). And at some point we decided to make the trip to, what I thought was, a sleepy little Island country.

After a week of hiking and music, I knew this wouldn’t be my last visit here. From the volcanos to the geysers, glaciers to the hot springs - I fell in love with Iceland and vouched to come back as soon as I could.

Image credit: Andrea Sól Ásmundsdóttir copyright

I ended up returning a couple months later to study the 2008 economic crisis and how it affected the health of Icelanders. I took the time to meet the locals, hear their stories, visit some of the emerging businesses and immerse myself in the Icelandic society.

12 years, 2 kids and 1 business later - here we are.

Over that time I’ve headed up multiple roles, as head of commercialization at Reykjavik-based health tech SidekickHealth, Advisor to Invest In Iceland for their Biotech & Life Sciences sector, and most recently CMO at pharmaceutical company LYSI - a leading producer of pharmaceutical omega oils.

It was at that last position where things really changed for me. As a long-time vegan, I was brought in to help divest and plan for a more plant-based world, where we invested in algae. Sitting in this role for two years, I learned first hand about the fishing industry. Like how for hundreds of years, Iceland’s economy has been based on the fishing of Cod (primarily), but for decades, their populations have been rapidly deteriorating globally. Or how the problem extends well beyond Iceland - with the UN global targets for 2020 to restore fish stocks far from met, and at least 50% of fish stocks being overfished.

Present day: Climate-through-foodtech

In 2022, Loki Foods was founded to uphold the history and values that Icelanders hold close: love for the planet, appreciation for the oceans and unrelenting determination to innovate.

The country’s rich history of environmentalism and progressive scientific research provided the perfect foundation for the inception of Loki Foods, which would become the first sustainable food company from Iceland, joining the race to solve the environmental crisis of overfishing by starting with a problem close to home - the depletion of North Atlantic Cod, Iceland’s “white gold.”

Image credit: Loki Foods, Inc. copyright

The Secret Sauce: Iceland

The great thing about starting a climate venture in Iceland is the incredible amount of flowing water and volcanoes here. Not because they provide a beautiful backdrop to work in (which they do) but because this combination of water and volcanic lava powers a 100% renewable energy grid, derived from (1) hydropower (roughly 70%) and (2) geothermal (the remaining 30%). An absolute dream location for a climate startup.

As an Icelandic climate-through-foodtech company, Loki Foods is able to produce all of our alternative proteins from a clean and renewable energy source - an unheard of opportunity for alt-protein companies and a welcomed benefit at a time when energy prices are rising to new records across the globe.

Concretely - that means our production site could run 24/7 producing our plant-based cod filets non-stop and our energy bill would be 100-euros a month, if that, including water.

Incredibly cheap, clean renewable energy is just the tip of the iceberg, as Iceland ranks among the highest in the easiness of conducting a business and accessing decision makers in the public system and government, while being densely educated and simultaneously the world’s standard for gender equality.

And when you’re ready to go-to-market, Iceland (a member of the EEA) sits perfectly between North America and Europe - an ideal launch pad for anything from hardtech solutions to CPG brands. (fun fact: the world's largest vegan shop - VeganBudin.is - is located in Reykjavik and headed up by Magnus - pictured below).

The challenges

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows running a company here, the relatively remote island country comes with its drawbacks - one of them being the lack of sunshine and rainbows for 3 months of the year during our winter (side note: we then have an absolute abundance of in the summer months, sleeting like 20-22 hours of it!).

While yes, we do have the Northern lights to make up for the lack of sunshine in the winter - it is something that non-Icelanders need some time to adjust to and certainly something to factor in if you plan to move and have a family here all year round.

Did Iceland sponsor you to say all of this?

Ha, that would have been a good idea (maybe I can retroactively ask them?). Truth is I’ve fallen in love with Iceland since the moment I landed here. The plan was never to stick around, nor to launch the first Icelandic sustainable food company. But the country has a way of growing on you (while you grow two Icelandic kids) and offered the opportunity to grow a truly sustainable business.

I’d love to see more Climate friendly startups move or start some operations here, we certainly need it - asides from the very well known Climeworks, Running Tide or the lesser known Carbfix, the country is host to just a handful of climate tech startups (and only one foodtech 👋🏼) - and at a time when energy costs look volatile, a place where companies could literally reduce their largest input costs by 99x sounds like a dream come true.

If you do decide to move here, visit at some point or just want to talk more about Iceland and alt protein - reach out to me at [email protected] (we're also hiring)

Something Fun: 

The ABCs of Climate Change - made by @NicoleKelner with the help of Twitter's climate community

Thanks for reading - if you enjoyed this edition, please feel free to forward it to a friend, founder or investor interested in climate tech.

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Curated by Nicola & Arman