The Brief | July 5, 2018

$30 trillion of climate pressure, indoor farming, urban innovation, future of food distribution

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Can $30 trillion in global assets drive companies to climate disclosure –– and climate action? It’s in the nature of tipping points that things move very slowly until they move very fast. Take climate action. Global investment in the great low-carbon rebuild is has been essentially flat for the past three years, at barely one-third of the $1 trillion needed every year, at a minimum.Does that mean momentum has stalled and the planet is cooked? Or that the inexorable math of falling costs and rising risks will at some point — soon? — lead to dramatically higher clean energy investment and reduced carbon emissions that leave fossil-fuel assets stranded?

The latest clues come from the six-month report card of the Climate Action 100, part of the buildup to September’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. Targeting “systemically important greenhouse gas emitters” (SIGGEs, anyone?) the five-year campaign aims to flip the market “We are doing this because serious financial risks are in play across the global economy.” says Anne Simpson of the $350 billion California Public Employees Retirement System. Organizers say support among the SIGGEs for the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosure has tripled to 18%. Another signal to watch: the gap between the forecasts of the oil and gas industry (low), and global car makers (soaring) for the adoption of electric vehicles. Tipping point? Don’t say you didn’t see it coming.

Read, “Can $30 trillion in global assets drive companies to climate disclosure –– and climate action?” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

BrightFarms closes $55 million to expand indoor farming. The company, which supplies U.S. outlets like Walmart and Giant, operates indoor farms in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Illinois. Media company Cox Enterprises led the Series D raise, the latest in a wave of indoor farming investments that range from the hyper-local to global. Read more.

Clean tech startup raises $7 million to ramp up manufacturing in Buffalo. Green Machine Equipment has moved into a vacant auto factory plant, promising to bring jobs back to a facility that once employed 650 people. Public and private investors, including the Buffalo and Erie County Regional Development Corp, the Western New York Impact Fund, and KeyBank are backing the firm, which claims its systems are zero-emission, 50% quieter and 90% less expensive than standard diesel-powered systems. The details.

Urban Innovation Fund raises $22.5 million city startup fund. The fund, launched by Julie Lein and Clara Brenner, aims to help startups tackle challenges of urbanization and city evolution with capital and regulatory support. It has invested in 14 companies—about half of its target portfolio size—including election tech startup Voatz and teacher-support resource BookNook. The fund helps its portfolio companies navigate regulatory requirements. Dig in.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Distribution is key to the future of food. In the tech-driven future of food, production gets the glory, but it’s distribution that will tackle the challenge. The world needs to produce 50% to 70% more food by 2050 to feed more than nine billion people. Food and ag tech, like vertical farms and lab-grown and “alternative” meat, can help fill the gap. But “the problem of undernourishment and hidden hunger around the globe is a distribution problem rather than a production one,” notes Germany’s Postdam Institute. High-tech solutions to future food production grab headlines and big-ticket investments, but startups and investors are starting to expose the opportunity in distribution, too.

  • Different places, different prices… Healthy fast-casual chain Everytable just raised $5.3 million dollars from Kimbal Musk (Elon Musk’s brother), Acumen and TOMS Social Enterprise for its approach to making healthy food more affordable. Everytable uses a sliding-scale pricing model that lets restaurants in low-income neighborhoods charge less than ones in high-income neighborhoods.
  • Local flavor… Grind House in Baltimore sells smoothies, juice and food with a “Heal the Hood” philosophy, says founder Ayoluwa Nzinga. “We are 100% vegan, but we really cater our vegan options to people who wouldn’t necessarily pick up something healthy.”
  • Reducing food waste… Australia’s Yume is finding buyers for “surplus food,” while Inspirafarms is building cold-storage systems to help off-grid small farmers get more of their produce to market.

Read, “The future-of-food distribution opportunity,” by Jessica Pothering on ImpactAlpha.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Lisa Green Hall will lead impact investing at the Case Foundation as a senior fellow, while continuing as a senior fellow at the Beeck Center at Georgetown University… The Rural and Agricultural Finance Learning Lab is hosting a webinar on women’s empowerment in smallholder finance, July 18… “Like you, our generation still believes in a well-diversified portfolio,” wrote Nia Impact Capital’s Kristin Hull in a Father’s Day letter to her dad (an options trader). “We understand the need for biodiversity in our environment, and at decision-making tables.”

— July 5, 2018.