As concerns rise over forest carbon offsets, Pachama’s verified offset marketplace gets $15 million

Restoring and preserving the world’s forests has long been considered one of the easiest, lowest cost, and simplest ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

It’s by far the most popular method for corporations looking to take an easy first step on the long road to decarbonizing or offsetting their industrial operations. But in recent months the efficacy, validity, and reliability of a number of forest offsets have been called into question thanks to some blockbuster reporting from Bloomberg.

It’s against this uncertain backdrop that investors are coming in to shore up financing for Pachama, a company building a marketplace for forest carbon credits that it says is more transparent and verifiable thanks to its use of satellite imagery and machine learning technologies.

That pitch has brought in $15 million in new financing for the company, which co-founder and chief executive Diego Saez Gil said would be used for product development and the continued expansion of the company’s marketplace.

Launched only one year ago, Pachama has managed to land some impressive customers and backers. No less an authority on things environmental than Jeff Bezos (given how much of a negative impact Amazon operations have on the planet), gave the company a shoutout in his last letter to shareholders as Amazon’s outgoing chief executive. And the largest ecommerce company in Latin America, Mercado Libre, tapped the company to manage an $8 million offset project that’s part of a broader commitment to sustainability by the retailing giant.

Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund is an investor in the latest round, which was led by Bill Gates’ investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Other investors included Lowercarbon Capital (the climate-focused fund from über-successful angel investor, Chris Sacca), former Über executive Ryan Graves’ Saltwater, the MCJ Collective, and new backers like Tim O’Reilly’s OATV, Ram Fhiram, Joe gebbia, Marcos Galperin, NBA All-star Manu Ginobilli, James Beshara, Fabrice Grinda, Sahil Lavignia, and Tomi Pierucci.

That’s not even the full list of the company’s backers. What’s made Pachama so successful, and given the company the ability to attract top talent from companies like Google, Facebook, SapceX, Tesla, OpenAI, Microsoft, Impossible Foods and Orbital Insights, is the combination of its climate mission applied to the well-understood forest offset market, said Saez Gil.

“Restoring nature is one of the most important solutions to climate change. Forests, oceans and other ecosystems not only sequester enormous amounts of CO2from the atmosphere, but they also provide critical habitat for biodiversity and are sources of livelihood for communities worldwide. We are building the technology stack required to be able to drive funding to the restoration and conservation of these ecosystems with integrity, transparency and efficiency” said Diego Saez Gil, Co-founder and CEO at Pachama. “We feel honored and excited to have the support of such an incredible group of investors who believe in our mission and are demonstrating their willingness to support our growth for the long term”. 

Customers outside of Latin America are also clamoring for access to Pachama’s offset marketplace. Microsoft, Shopify, and Softbank are also among the company’s paying buyers.

It’s another reason that investors like Y Combinator, Social Capital, Tobi Lutke, Serena Williams, Aglaé Ventures (LVMH’s tech investment arm), Paul Graham, AirAngels, Global Founders, ThirdKind Ventures, Sweet Capital, Xplorer Capital, Scott Belsky, Tim Schumacher, Gustaf Alstromer, Facundo Garreton, and Terrence Rohan, were able to commit to backing the company’s nearly $24 million haul since its 2020 launch. 

“Pachama is working on unlocking the full potential of nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere,” said Carmichael Roberts from BEV, in a statement. “Their technology-based approach will have an enormous multiplier effect by using machine learning models for forest analysis to validate, monitor and measure impactful carbon neutrality initiatives. We are impressed by the progress that the team has made in a short period of time and look forward to working with them to scale their unique solution globally.” 

 

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Mercado Libre taps Pachama to monitor and manage its $8 million investment in Latin American rainforest restoration

Mercado Libre, one of the largest e-commerce and financial services company from Latin America by market cap, has selected the startup and Y Combinator alumni Pachama as its strategic partner in developing projects to restore ecosystems in Latin America.

The selection of Pachama is part of a program initiated by Mercado Libre, Latin America’s answer to Amazon, which is called Regenera America. The $8 million that Mercado Libre is investing will be in two reforestation projects: the “Mantiqueira Conservation Project”, organized under the auspices of The Nature Conservancy and the “Corridors of Live Project”, designed and implemented by the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicas.

Both projects will focus on the reforestation of over three thosuand hectares, through natural regeneration and planting over 1 million trees, restoring biodiversity corridors and protecting hydrological basins in the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil, the two companies said in a statement.

Pachama will provide satellite and machine learning technologies to verify and monitor the carbon sequestration produced by the sweeping reforestation efforts in a deal which leapfrogs Mercado Libre ahead of Microsoft as the young startup’s largest customer.

Software tools provided by Pachama will also increase the efficiency and transparency of the actual reforestation efforts on the ground, the companies said in a joint statement.

The deal between the two companies, and Mercado Libre’s big buy was announced earlier today at a press conference in Argentina and the agreement marks the first time Mercado Libre has tapped money from a recently issued $400 million Sustainability Bond that was designed to finance projects of what the e-commerce giant called “triple impact” in the Latin American region. The bond was issued by JP Morgan and BNP Paribas.

“We’re taking our first steps. We have always tried to do things the hard way and go to the core of problems. We have had a very interesting debate internally about when is the right time to start buying carbon offsets and carbon credits but we also realize that the … getting up and running of projects that generate carbon credits in Latin America was potentially even more of a challenging situation and more of a longterm solution,” said Mercado Libre chief financial officer Pedro Arnt.

“This is a building block of a longer term strategy thinking through not just what we can do for the next two or three years,” Arnt said. 

The Regenera America project has four pieces, Arnt said: measuring and reporting emissions internally for the company; buying clean energy for the company’s operations; providing electric vehicles for its own fleet and assisting its last mile and logistics partners in electrifying their own transportation; and the development of reforestation efforts across Latin America.

“This is setting up an example for more traditional industries across Latin America,” said Diego Saez-Gil, the co-founder and chief executive of Pachama. MercadoLibre is the largest company by market cap in Latin America and serves as a standard bearer for the forward thinking businesses in the region, he said. “Latin America is one of the biggest holders of biodiversity and carbon stocks in the world, and should be playing a more active role in climate mitigation.”

It’s a big step for Pachama as well. The deal marks the first time the young company has involved itself in project origination and provide a new revenue stream to compliment its existing lines of business.

“We are incredibly excited to start helping new reforestation projects get off the ground that have the capabilities to plant millions of trees and remove millions tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. If we are to solve climate change we need more projects like these to start as soon as possible,” said Saez-Gil in a statement. “We are confident that technologies such as AI and satellite imagery are key to scaling these efforts with high integrity, efficiency and transparency. Partnering with world-class organizations such as Mercado Libre, The Nature Conservancy and IPE for our first projects represents an incredible opportunity for us.” 

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Andreessen Horowitz could make the carbon offset API Patch its latest climate bet

The early-stage carbon offset API developer, Patch, could be another one of Andreessen Horowitz’s early bets on climate tech.

According to several people with knowledge of the investment round, former OpenTable chief executive and current Andreessen Horowitz partner Jeff Jordan is looking at leading the young company’s latest financing.

Such an investment would be a win for Patch, which could benefit from Andreessen Horowitz’s marketing muscle in a space that’s becoming increasingly crowded. And, if the deal goes through, it could be an indicator of more to come from one of the venture industry’s most (socially) active investors.

Companies like Pachama, Cloverly, Carbon Interface, and Cooler.dev all have similar API offerings, but the market for these types of services will likely expand as more companies try to do the least amount of work possible to become carbon neutral through offsetting. A growing market could generate space for more than one venture-backed winner.

Neither Patch’s co-founders nor Andreessen Horowitz responded to a request for comment about the funding.

One concern with services like Patch is that its customers will look at offsetting as their final destination instead of a step on the road to removing carbon emissions from business operations. To fix our climate crisis will take more work.

Founded by Brennan Spellacy and Aaron Grunfeld, two former employees at the apartment rental service Sonder, Patch raised its initial financing from VersionOne Ventures back in September.

Around 15 to twenty companies that are using the service now, according to people familiar with the company’s operations.

The company has an API that can calculate a company’s emissions footprint based on an integration with their ERP system and then invests money into offset projects that are designed to remove an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.

While services like Pachama privilege lower-cost sequestration solutions like reforestation and forest management, Patch offers an array of potential investment opportunities for offsets. And the company tries to nudge its customers to some of the more expensive, high technology options in an effort to bring down costs for emerging technologies, said one person familiar with the company’s plans.

Like other services automating offsetting, Patch evaluates projects based on their additionality (how much additional carbon they’re removing over an already established baseline), permanence (how long the carbon emissions will be sequestered) and verifiability.

And, as the company’s founders note in their own statement about the company’s service, it’s not intended to be the only solution that customers deploy.

“The majority of climate models indicate that we need to reduce our emissions globally, while also removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” the founders wrote in a Medium post. “We take care of a company’s carbon removal goals, while they focus their efforts on reducing emissions, a more proprietary task that requires intimate operational knowledge. Patch complements this behavioral shift and gives us a real chance to mitigate climate change.”

VersionOne’s Angela Tran addressed any concerns about the defensibility of Patch’s technology in her own September announcement.

“We also believe that defensibility comes with the aggregation and “digitization” of quality supply. When we view Patch as a marketplace, we believe that businesses (demand) care about the type of projects (supply) they purchase to neutralize their emissions,” Tran wrote. “For example, a company might choose their sustainability legacy to be linked with forestry or mineralization projects. Patch is partnering with the best carbon removal developers and the latest negative emission technologies to build a network of low-cost, impactful projects.”

While Patch is explicitly focused on climate change, Andreessen has made a few early investments in a broad sustainability thesis. The firm led a $9 million investment into Silo last year and backed KoBold Metals back in 2019.

Silo has developed an enterprise resource planning tool for perishable food supply chains. Currently focused on wholesale produce, Silo said in a statement last year that it would be extending its services to meat, dairy and pantry items over the next year.

“The market potential for an innovator like Silo to reduce waste and improve margins is enormous and we’re excited to support its efforts as the system of record for food distribution in the United States,” said Anish Acharya, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement at the time. “Silo is well-positioned to scale beyond the west coast to help more customers modernize and transition their operations from pen and paper to software.”

Meanwhile, KoBold is a software developer that uses machine learning and big data processing technologies to find new prospects for the precious metals that companies need to make new batteries and renewable energy generation technologies.

“By building a digital prospecting engine — full stack, from scratch — using computer vision, machine learning, and sophisticated data analysis not currently available to the industry, KoBold’s software combines previously unavailable, dark data with conventional geochemical, geophysical, and geological data to identify prospects in models that can only get better over time, as with other data network effects,” wrote Connie Chan in a blog post at the time.

Taken together, these investments coalesce into a picture of how Andreessen Horowitz and its pool of $16.5 billion in assets under management may approach the renewables industry.

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4 sustainable industries where founders and VCs can see green by going green

Now’s the time for sustainable investments to shine. There are billions of dollars in funding in both public and private markets dedicated to new sustainable investing and demand for consumers for a more conscious capitalism has never been stronger.

As founders and investors reawaken to a sustainable morning in America a few areas are going to demand hardware, software and business model innovations.

Some of these sectors have been on the investment radar for the past year or two and others are just beginning to capture investor attention, but they all have something in common: the investor appetite for new businesses addressing the food supply chain; energy management and construction for homes and offices; carbon sequestration and monitoring and management of offsets; and new biomaterials and processes for packaging and industrial chemicals replacements have never been stronger.

If we’re going to feed the world, let’s start with the food chain.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has exposed significant holes in the food supply. Companies like AppHarvest, which agreed to go public through a SPAC earlier this year are only one of several companies remaking agriculture through the application of technology. There’s also Plenty, Bowery Farms, Unfold, BrightFarms and Revol Greens, working to upend the agricultural supply chain. If those companies are looking at new ways of growing crops, companies like Apeel Sciences and Hazel Technologies are trying to find ways to preserve food from spoilage. Treasure8 is looking at ways to use food waste for new food and ingredients and they’re not alone.

Then there’s the protein replacement companies that we’ve written about previously. Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Memphis Meats, Mosa Meat, Nuggs, Future Meat Technologies, Shiok Meats (a seafood company) are devising methods to create meaty proteins less dependent on animal husbandry. Perfect Day and its competitors are doing the same for the dairy industry.

There’s also tremendous need for new protein sources to feed the animals that people around the world still like to eat. For this there’re companies like Ynsect, which is providing insect proteins for industrial fish farms, or Grubly Farms, which is providing feed to the families raising their own chickens.

For these opportunities that are raising hundreds of millions in financing there are others that require the kind of high margin software solutions that are yet to be developed. These are visual technologies for tracking, monitoring and managing food production; sensors for improving the storage and supply chain, software for managing production and tracking produce and products from the farm to the table. Venture investors are beginning to invest in these companies as well.

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