🍫 ClimateHack Vol 17: Cacao x Climate

PLUS: Q3 venture funding performance vs climate funding

Hey There,

Thanks for all the feedback on last weeks edition! Glad to hear many of you enjoyed the conversation, and we'll have more like that in the future (feel free to refer potential guest or reach out to be featured). 

This week we were busy hosting our 3rd FoodHack Demo Day - you can check out a recap of event and the 3 winning pitches here.

In today's Climate x Conversation, I reached out WNWN Food Labs, one of the winning pitches, to learn more about our big chocolate problem, its impact on climate, and why cacao-free chocolates might be the answer.

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

What’s in today's edition? 💸 Q3 venture funding performance vs climate funding🔋 Musk's recent feud with Australia's richest man🍫 Why chocolate production is a climate issue

Digest x Climate

📉 What’s down? European venture funding has dropped 44% year-on-year as early-stage investment slows significantly, according to data from Crunchbase.

📈 What’s up? Bucking the curve, climate tech had a “huge” Q3 in capital investments, including over a billion dollars each for Northvolt and TerraWatt Infrastructure.

🇳🇿 New Zealand’s government is planning to tax emissions from livestock burps and dung, starting in 2025, with any revenue “recycled back into [the] agriculture sector through new technology, research and incentive payments to farmers.”

☀️ The White House Office of Science and Technology is set to research ways of modifying the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth, including sunlight reflection technology, in order to temporarily reduce the effects of global warming.

Carbon x Climate 

🧽 MOF Technologies, based in Belfast, secured £4.4 million Series A funding from Barclays and Clean Growth Funding for its crystalline, sponge-like materials that can store, separate, and capture carbon dioxide from cement works, steel works, or energy-from-waste plants.

💰 UK-based carbon accounting platform Spherics has been acquired by accounting giant Sage, having raised £1.25 million in equity financing from angel investors and £300,000 in grants.

Food x Climate

🥬 Singrow, a precision agriculture company based in Singapore, is expanding its network of vertical urban farms and launching a consumer-facing brand, Bloom, designed to bring sustainable crops to consumers.

🪐 Mexican startup Micro Meats is partnering with Orbital Assembly, a US-based developer of space-based business parks with variable gravity, to cultivate meat in space as a sustainable source of food for astronauts.

🐜 Estonian startup FlyFeed secured €3 million seed funding, just a year after launch, to establish an industrial-sized insect farm in Vietnam to feed the world with sustainable insect protein.

🍲 Materials science technology company Footprint is using its proprietary tech to develop sustainable plant-based fibre packaging for açai producer SAMBAZON’s ready-to-eat frozen açai bowls.

🍴 New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park has kept its Michelin accreditation since going vegan, making it the first plant-based restaurant in the world with three Michelin stars

Materials x Climate

☁️ Tallinn-based Cloud Factory secured €2 million to scale up its zero-waste 3D printing technology approach to producing cost-effective and sustainable jewellery production. 

🧫 VitroLabs, based in San Francisco, has appointed a new Board of Directors, following its $46 million Series A raise earlier this year, to support its mission to create luxurious next-gen leather from cells.

🍎 Peelo closed a pre-seed funding round, featuring Rockstart and CB Investment Management, for its natural, reusable, washable, and compostable alternative to single-use plastic food wrap.

Transport x Climate

⚡️ Spanish startup Zunder raised €100 million from French sustainable investment manager Mirova to expand its ultra-fast electric vehicle charging infrastructure to 4,000 points across Southern Europe.

🚗 Honda is spending $700 million to retool three of its Ohio plants to build electric vehicles, as part of its plans to phase out production of gas engines by 2040.

🔋 Elon Musk has gone head-to-head with Australia’s richest man, billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest. Tesla is backing battery-powered electric vehicles as Musk famously mocked hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as “mind-bogglingly stupid”, while Forrest is heavily backing green hydrogen.

Energy x Climate

🌤 SunDrive, based in Australia, raised $21 million Series B funding for its cheaper rooftop solar panels, made by replacing the silver in production with copper, which have set a new record for solar efficiency.

📊 Berlin-based AI-powered energy costs solutions company Frequenz secured €13 million Series A funding to accelerate its European rollout. Its tech claims to save corporate users over 30% in energy pricing and reduce CO2 emissions.

☀️ Solestial raised $10 million seed funding for its solar panels, that can withstand the harsh environment of space, built using “inexpensive, scalable processes”.

🇳🇱 Spanish energy firm Cepsa says it will work with the Port of Rotterdam to develop “the first green hydrogen corridor between southern and northern Europe,” accelerating the “decarbonization of heavy industry and maritime transport and supports Europe’s energy independence and security”.

🖨 Oakland-based sustainability scale-up Mighty Buildings has just completed the world's first 3D-printed zero net energy home.

Funds x Climate

💰 London-based Lightrock secured €860 million for its new climate tech fund, which will support startups working in areas such as clean energy, decarbonization and sustainable agriculture with checks of $10-39 million.

💸 Sustainable investment platform Net Purpose raised $11 million Series A funding in a round round led by ETF Partners to expand its product, designed to analyse social and environmental performance based on factual reporting.

Conversations x Climate: Cacao-free chocolate 🍫

This week I reached out to Ahrum Pak, co-founder and CEO of UK-based WNWN Food Labs. Ahrum and her co-founder Jonny Drain (aka: The Walter White of flavour) joined up in 2021 to tackle what they saw as one of the most ethically problematic foods, chocolate.

The pair have since raised a US$1 million pre-seed back in October of last year, built up a fair bit of following on their Instagram page, and are one of the earliest movers in getting their cacao and palm oil-free ethical chocolates to market.

What’s the pitch for cacao-free chocolates and climate, and why should we care?

💡 TLDR: Enjoying delicious chocolate, by itself or in your favorite cookies or ice cream might not be possible with the current rate of climate change. Chocolate might become an unaffordable luxury, out of reach to many. As ardent choc-lovers, that's not a world we want to imagine, so we’re doing something about it. We’re future-proofing chocolate by making a cacao-free alternative from low-carbon, sustainable plant-based crops (that’s also vegan, caffeine-free, lower in saturated fats and sugar).

Why we should care: 

  • 🌳 Deforestation: The majority of our chocolate (~70%) is grown in just 2 countries in West Africa: Cote d'Ivoire + Ghana [World Economic Forum]. Since 2019, within the cocoa growing regions of Cote d'Ivoire + Ghana, an area of tropical rainforest equivalent to the size of Madrid, Seoul or Chicago has been lost [Mighty Earth, Sweet Nothings, 2022]. Worse, over the last 60 years, Cote d'Ivoire has lost 94% of forest cover and Ghana 80% - a third of which is directly attributable to cocoa production [International Wildlife Conservation].

  • 💨 Carbon Emissions: Most people don’t know that chocolate has a big carbon footprint. It emits more greenhouse gas (19kg of CO2e per kg of product) across its supply chain than either pork (7kg) or chicken (6kg) [Our World in Data, Poore & Nemecek 2018, graph below].

  • 🌊 Water Use: Wavering trends in cocoa yields in West Africa have been attributed to erratic rainfall, including longer dry spells during rainy seasons: to produce 1 kg of chocolate requires ~24,000L water. The figure for 1 kg of beef? 15,500L. And cereals? 1,600L. [Mekonnen, M.M. and Hoekstra, A.Y. (2011) Crops ; Mekonnen, M.M. and Hoekstra, A.Y. (2012) Farm Animals]

  • 👎 Child & Slave Labour: There are ~1.5 million child labourers (a conservative estimate) in cacao production in Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire; 95% of the child labourers are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, such as working with dangerous tools or harmful pesticides [NORC 2020]. In Ghana, undercover journalists documented traffickers selling children for cacao slavery for as little as $34 [Invisible Hands, Shraysi Tandon, First Run Features, 2018].

What those stats mean:

Chocolate is a BIG business dominated by a few big companies. By 2030, the market will be worth $300bn a year, growing 6% globally year on year. We have to ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Can we meet that type of global demand without inflicting more harm on the planet and its people?

  • Can we reshape the cacao supply chain so that hardworking farmers and their children see more of the money generated from their crops and have greater life and job security?

  • Should rainforests—in Africa, the Americas, and Asia— sustain more deforestation in the pursuit of growing more cacao? What biodiversity and habitat loss will they see in the process?

  • Will we even be able to grow cacao in the next 30+ years given altering conditions due to climate change?

Changing the status quo:

WNWN is just one of many different approaches trying to address these issues. We love chocolate. We support chocolate makers and growers out there doing awesome work. We want to help people working at the forefront of tackling issues like slavery and the climate crisis.

Our role is three-fold:

  1. To accelerate change by shining a light on the malpractices in the chocolate supply chain

  2. To break Big Choc’s dependency on cacao by offering price-competitive alternatives

  3. To future-proof the flavor profile of chocolate that we know and love.

Connect with Ahrum on Linkedin to follow along the WNWN journey, see their latest product drops, and spot their latest job openings.

Something Fun: 

This email was not written by ghostwriters, but here's a few tweets that were. 

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