The Brief | May 20, 2021

The Brief: Regenerative agriculture, next-gen geothermal, climate finance in Mexico, justice tech, plant-based chicken, smarter glasses

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Impact Voices: climate Solutions

Five ways family offices can unlock capital for regenerative agriculture. The investment momentum into regenerative agriculture is undeniable. In 2018, there was $49 million of investment capital going to companies in the space. By 2020, that had grown to $1.3 billion. Yet many mainstream financiers and large farmers have barely heard of regenerative agriculture. In the U.S., more than $700 billion in investments will be needed over 30 years to scale the regenerative agriculture market — generating as much as $10 trillion in net financial returns. “It will take sustained leadership to create financial pathways to evolve agricultural practices to be more regenerative,” writes Daniel Matross of CREO Syndicate, a community of more than 100 wealth owners and family offices. CREO released a new paper exploring ways to unlock such investments.

  • White spaces. CREO identified five key areas with viable financial returns, including inputs, biologics, and seeds; carbon tools and markets; and processing, storage and distribution development. To support premium prices and increase demand, consumers need to better understand the benefits of regenerative agriculture.
  • Dealflow. Investors have access to real assets for farmland conversion to regenerative management (Clear Frontier Agriculture Management, for example); loan platforms for smaller farms, like Steward; carbon market platforms such as Nori, processing and distribution platforms connecting growers and buyers (Soil Heroes), and companies that simplify the transition process with better data, like Trace Genomics, or land management, such as Vence.
  • Family offices. Ultra-high-net-worth families and their family offices have a unique opportunity to provide catalytic capital for high-impact ventures and funds. Join Ceniarth’s Diane Isenberg, along with Libra Foundation’s Regan Pritzker and other principals, on Agents of Impact Call No. 28 to explore how some wealthy families are optimizing their portfolios for impact, Tuesday, May 25 at 10am PT / 1 pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.
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Google’s turn to geothermal renews interest in 100-year-old cleantech. Geothermal energy taps heat from the earth to warm homes and businesses and drive turbines to generate electricity. Unlike wind and solar energy, geothermal provides steady, renewable power that does not need storage. Most geothermal systems – think Iceland’s hot springs or California’s geysers – have been located close to surface-level thermal waters. Google is partnering with Houston-based Fervo Energy to use advanced drilling, fiber-optic sensing and analytics to find deeper thermal reservoirs. The companies are developing an AI-based next-generation geothermal power project in Nevada that is expected to supply energy to the state’s electric grid next year. Capricorn Investment Group and Breakthrough Energy were among backers of Fervo’s $28 million Series B round last month (see, “Breakthrough Energy Ventures backs three climate-tech startups”).

  • Warming up. Unreasonable’s Pratibha Vuppuluri profiles four promising geothermal startups, including New York-based Dandelion Energy, which is installing geothermal heat pumps in New York homes, and Sweden’s Baseload, which finances geothermal projects. “We are increasingly witnessing a compelling use-case for geothermal across residential, commercial and industrial sectors,” writes Vuppuluri in her latest guest post on ImpactAlpha. Read her full piece.  
  • Catalytic capital. Cost and technology improvements could boost geothermal generation 26-fold, to 60 gigawatts, by 2050, says the U.S. Department of Energy, which last month awarded $15 million to Sandia Labs and West Virginia University to help drive down costs. Entrepreneurial scientists at Fervo and Zanskar, a geothermal exploration tech startup, have participated in a Berkeley Lab and Activate-supported acceleratorPrime Impact Fund recently led Zanskar’s  $3.2 million seed round. 
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Dealflow: Follow the Money

Energy Impact Partners backs Moxion Power and Zap Energy. The New York sustainable investment firm counts Microsoft and electric utilities as strategic partners. Richmond, Virginia-based Moxion raised $10 million in Series A funding for its temporary-power-as-a-service platform to help construction as well as event and film production companies swap diesel-powered generators for Moxion’s fleet of electric equipment. “We’re embarking on an area of unprecedented electrification globally, which is going to dramatically increase the need for clean, portable and on-demand power,” says EIP’s Sameer Reddy. Moxion is launching an electric equipment rental shop in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tamarack Global and Liquid 2 Ventures and other existing investors participated in the round.

Altum Capital expands climate finance in Mexico with $50 million from IFC. The International Finance Corp. estimates that $791 billion in climate and clean energy investments are needed in Mexico by 2030 to reach the country’s emissions reduction goals. Mexico City-based Altum lends to non-bank financial institutions and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in Mexico. The MXN 1 billion ($50 million) loan from IFC, an arm of the World Bank Group, will boost finance for Mexico’s small businesses and climate-related projects. The investment “will encourage other funders to replicate and further expand this source of financing to support the country’s climate goals,” says IFC Mexico’s Juan Gonzalo FloresShare this post

Uptrust raises $2 million to help people navigate and exit the justice system. The San Francisco- and Northampton, Mass.-based company initially launched to help low-income people avoid missing court dates. “As we have grown, we’ve seen that there are countless other types of preventable technical violations that ultimately cost local governments over $10 billion per year, with even more devastating costs for people and their families,” says Uptrust’s Jacob Sills. Uptrust partners with 547 counties across 27 states to connect people involved with the criminal justice system with public defenders and probation officers to avoid technical violations.

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Plant-based chicken startup Daring Foods raises $40 million in Series B financing, led by D1 Capital Partners, and backed by the rapper DrakeMaveronPalm Tree Crew and others.
  • U.K. fintech Algbra secures £3.7 million ($5.2 million) to offer financial products for ethically-minded consumers in minority communities.
  • Evision in The Netherlands snags €1.5 million ($1.8 million) to make AI-powered smart glasses to help the visually impaired process visual information.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Climate scientist Mike Kuperbergreturns as head of the U.S. Global Change Research Program… Jim Casselberry of 4S Bay Partners joins the Aeris board of directors… Catherine Toner, ex- of Bank of America and Arabella Advisors, joins Gary Community Investments as director of impact investing… CREO is looking for an investment director of the Americas and other roles in New York or the San Francisco Bay Area… Aeris is hiring a financial institutions ratings analyst… Paul Ramsay Foundationseeks an incubator program manager in Sydney… Laboratoria is recruiting a U.S.-based partnerships manager… Apollo is hiring a project coordinator/associate of cross-platform responsible investing integration and growth in New York… Gary Community Investments is looking for a program manager of impact investing in Denver… 

GenderSmart is hosting “Investing in first-time women and diverse fund managers,” with Laura Kemp-Pedersen of ImpactInc, Najada Kumbuli of Visa Foundation, Rodrigo Garcia of the State of Illinois and GenderSmart’s Suzanne Biegel, Wednesday, May 26… CASA is hosting “Five routes to profitable sourcing from smallholder farmers,” Wednesday, May 26… Croatan Institute is hosting “Investing in climate justice,” with Omar Blayton of Sunwealth, William Barber III of the Rural Beacon Initiative, Vonda Brunsting of the Just Transition Project, Rev. Mariama White-Hammond with the City of Boston and Croatan’s Christi Electris, Thursday, May 27.

Thank you for your impact.

— May 20, 2019.