cleantech insights

This Deal Matters: Cool Planet Energy Systems Closes Series D Funding; Corporates Bet on Advanced Biofuel and Rising Activities in Asia

Leo Zhang

cool planetCool Planet Energy Systems, the Colorado-based developer of advanced drop-in fuels and biochar, announced a $50.7 million investment and the closing of the company’s $100 million Series D growth equity round. Cool Planet’s latest investors include Concord Energy Holdings, a Singapore-based crude oil trading company, which led the round with existing investor North Bridge Venture Partners. Other existing investors include BP Ventures, ConocoPhillips, Energy Technology Ventures, Exelon Capital Partners, General Electric, Google Ventures, NRG Energy, and Shea Ventures. The new investment, along with Cool Planet’s strategic corporate investors, will help to expedite the company’s 10 million gallon per year biofuel facility in Louisiana. The timing of this deal is significant in that it demonstrates corporate interests in bio-based drop-in fuels, especially given the ongoing commercialization struggle of another high-profile drop-in fuel company, KiOR, which private investor Vinod Khosla has recently committed an additional $25 million from his personal trust to continue supporting the company.

This deal also matters as it is the second deal of back-to-back investments into biofuel companies, following a $60 million growth equity round raised by LanzaTech just a week ago. Notably, we have observed increasing …


Harvesting Innovation: The Changing Face of African Agriculture

Brett Richardson

Africa is in the midst of an agricultural revolution, with innovation driving new avenues for increased crop yields, better resource and capital operating efficiencies, and general farm management knowledge. Africa is home to almost 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, or about 60% of  the world’s total. This contrasts the fact that 1/3rd of sub-Saharan Africans are undernourished, with population expected to grow to 1.2 billion people by 2050. The cleantech world is driving the changing scope of African agriculture with an influx of new companies offering innovative solutions which will alleviate stresses to the current system and support farmers.

global uncultivated caption

Both local and international startups are addressing some of the most basic challenges of agricultural production in Africa. 20%, or 4 billion dollars of grain harvest, is lost every year and 35-50% of fruit and vegetables spoil from crop and storage pests. UK based companies Plant Health Care and Exosect are targeting this inefficiency with pilot projects in Africa using their proprietary crop protection technologies. Plant Health Care provides natural pesticides which leaves no residual impact on the environment and helps to activate certain defensive and growth responses. Exosect also makes bio-control pesticides that can be applied to …

CVT Corp: What does Groupon have to do with variable transmission?

Josh Gould

The recent buzz is that cleantech is losing its “sex appeal” thanks to the huge valuations of tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, LivingSocial, and of course Groupon.  We’ve refuted the false notion that cleantech companies are somehow fundamentally different than or inferior to web or IT companies.  But don’t just take our word for it.  One important characteristic shared by Groupon and our pitch of the week company CVT Corp is something that has real sex appeal in these current economic times: saving money. 

The Problem

Oil, natural gas, and agricultural companies all require diesel generators to provide power in remote locations off the grid.  Used heavily, each machine can burn up to 500,000 liters of fuel (costing roughly $400,000+ in total) in its average lifetime of 2.5 years.  (Interesting side note for you finance/accounting folks out there: some companies who use generators 24/7 simply record them as an expense, and don’t include it in their balance sheets, since their useful life is so short).  Roughly 90% of a diesel generator’s total cost of ownership is fuel, not the machine itself.  Such high operating costs means that the addressable market for diesel generators is estimated at over $2B annually by CVT Corp.  

High fuel consumption is caused, in part, by generators that run at maximum speed whenever the machine is turned …

A Purfresh take on the global food supply chain

Stephen Marcus

Today we are facing “increasing demand for fresh food globally, longer times for food to reach its end market, and stricter food legislations”, according to Purfresh CEO & President Dave Cope. Solving these environmental and business challenges are seen has the Holy Grail of the food industry; and they are also Purfresh’s Raison d’être.

The California-based company combines scientific and high-tech expertise to provide solutions that enable the food industry to maximize yields, enhance the quality of food grown, reduce waste of what is produced, and ensure the safety of produce for consumers around the globe. After already successfully raising several round of venture financing and from top-tier venture capitalists, as well as obtaining 1,500 customers in over 50 countries, Mr Cope said that “Purfresh is now looking for around $15 million to scale up its distribution lines and direct sales channels”.

Purfresh offers both pre-harvest crop protection and post-harvest food storage and transportation solutions. Here’s a little more info about their offerings:

Pre-harvest crop protection – “SPF45 for your crops” – Increases in temperatures, harsher growing conditions, and water scarcity have caused what is known as solar stress in plants. Solar stress – which is caused when plants receive …

Top-10 drivers of cleantech investment in India

Guest Analysts Shawn Lesser and Prashant Maniar

India is the 5th largest power generator in the world and is projected to be the 3rd largest by 2030. Its peak power deficit already stands at 12.6% and is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. The World Bank has predicted that 60% of India’s aquifers will be in critical condition in 15 years time.

For India, continuing its growth momentum while sustaining a healthy environment is a critical imperative. Cleantech can help ensure that these two goals are met.

1. India’s coal tax could raise $650 million for cleantech innovation – As of 1 July 2010, the Indian government began levying a tax of Rs 50 (~$1.1) on every tonne of coal mined in the country as well as that imported from abroad. The tax has the potential of raising $650 million in revenues which will be put towards a “Clean Energy Fund” for the research, development and deployment of renewable energy technologies.

2. Hydro is flowing strong - Hydro electric power generation accounts for 23% of India’s power generation capacity. Moreover, there is currently 46 GW of hydro capacity either completed or under development. Interestingly, only 3.5% of completed projects have been developed by the private sector. …

TerraManus – reinventing the agricultural wheel

Stephen Marcus

Over the past 10 years, Indiana-based TerraManus Technologies LLC has developed and patented its TerraStar wheel technology. The wheel forms weirs the soil in such a way as to “consolidate the soil without causing compaction”, according to company CFO Gregg Whittaker PhD. This increases the soil surface area, allowing the soil to hold and control flowing water and enabling the water to penetrate the soil. Additionally, the increased soil surface area leads to significant warming of the soil, allowing for earlier crop planting and potentially double-cropping in certain cooler regions. Moreover, TerraStar usage cuts input costs while significantly increasing yields and enhancing plant health. The wheel can be attached to virtually any existing agri/horticultural machine or can be placed on a specially designed implement.

TerraManus has packaged its technology in two ways:

1.      A transformative technology that can be readily integrated with the existing planting and tillage practices of fully-mechanized, developed-world farmers.

2.      A revolutionary, cost-effective technology for developing-world farmers whose only significant resource is human-labor.

The technology has enormous benefits; independent field tests in both Central Mexico and the U.S. have demonstrated that the TerraStar wheel can significantly increase yields – soybean, corn and tomato yields (to name only …

10 Reasons Why Sustainable Aquaculture Is the Future of Seafood

Guest Analysts: Michael Whelchel and Aaron Enz

Fish farming (or aquaculture) is the fastest growing segment within the global agribusiness growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9%. In the 1970’s, aquaculture represented only 6% of total seafood consumption. Today, it represents 40% and is expected to rise to 50% by 2024 representing a market size of $100 billion.

Part of the reason for aquaculture’s growth is the increase in global demand for seafood coupled with a flat or declining supply from wild harvesting. While aquaculture is expected to fill the growing demand, conventional aquaculture methods have problems, including the wide use of antibiotics and pesticides to fight disease; the necessity of using of wild caught fish for fishmeal to feed farmed species; contaminants from fishmeal; and limited coastal waters available for aquaculture. If not addressed, the problems facing conventional aquaculture will limit its ability to meet rising demand.

Enter “sustainable aquaculture”.

The following are key drivers making sustainable agriculture an interesting sector to watch:

1. Output from Wild Fisheries in Peril – “We are fighting a war against fish, and we are winning,” according to Dr. Daniel Pauly, a professor at the University of British Columbia, Fisheries Centre and Zoology Department. Dr. Pauly also recently …

Agro-Ecological – a novel fund offering an alternative investment model for sustainable agriculture

Stephen Marcus

To-date, cleantech venture and private equity investors have shied away from the agriculture space; perhaps out of lack of expertise in the sector and/or the inability of investors to reconcile agricultural investments with their more short-term and less capital intensive financial models derived from the IT industry. Nonetheless, over the past nine months, more new funds are beginning to signal their interest in the sector and recognize its strategic importance, albeit cautiously. (See: New venture funds cautiously dabble their toes in sustainable agriculture.)

This is where the UK-based boutique asset manager Agro-Ecological Investment Management comes in. Agro-Ecological is planning to establish a new fund that aims to breakdown these seemingly insurmountable barriers to entry by pioneering sustainable agriculture and farmland as a profitable asset class, and creating a fund that is palatable to the private equity world.

“Agro-Ecological will invest in conventionally managed farms and convert them to certified organic production. We will adopt a holistic ecological/organic approach that will ensure that the land is agronomically and financially more resilient, eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms, enhance soil structures, conserve water and ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity,” according to Geoff Burke, …

New venture funds cautiously dabble their toes in sustainable agriculture

Stephen Marcus

In my report on sustainable agriculture published in December 2009 entitled ‘Preparing for a second green revolution’, I wrote that one of the reasons why venture capital and private equity investment in the sector is so low, is that there are few experts with both venture investment and agricultural expertise.

At the same time, the drivers for investing in sustainable agriculture – forecasted food demand rising to unprecedented levels combined with tougher constraints on increasing food supply and the damaging nature of conventional modern farming – are more pertinent. Hence I concluded that it wouldn’t be long before investors become more incentivized to discover the commercial opportunities and put money to work in the sector.

It seems as if this forecast is somewhat materializing. Even though venture capital investment in sustainable agriculture still constituted only 3% of global cleantech investment in 2Q 2010, there was clear heightened interest from new cleantech investment funds from across the globe to invest in the sector.

Asia-based CLSA and Origo Partners, U.S.-based Global Environment Fund and JAFCO Ventures, and European investors BeCapital and Robeco are but some of the investors that made fund raising announcements in 2Q 2010 with the intention …

Kedco raises new funds for Northern Ireland gasification plant, seeks partners

Lisa Sibley

UK-based Kedco (LON: KED) informed the Cleantech Group it has raised €3.2 million ($4 million) from London independent investment company Cornhill Capital and a private client network along with two directors.

Kedco CEO Donal Buckley said the funding comes in the form of a Private Investment in Public Equity or PIPE structure to enable the company to develop an efficient 4 megawatt gasification project in Northern Ireland being commissioned in 2Q 2010.

“It turns on our first major electrical generation plant, which will have the effect of re-evaluating the pipelines,” he said. The company has 29 projects in various stages of development totaling more than 100 MW and a 100 kilowatt plant already in operation.

“It will be the biggest in the UK and Ireland for its type,” Buckley said of the Northern Ireland project. “It takes wood and converts it to electricity using gasification.”

The company specializes in designing, building and operating localized renewable power generation plants, with power generation coming from sustainable waste and biomass fuel sources, including wood, agricultural or food waste as fuel.

Buckley said as a developer, Kedco obtains feedstock contracts, power purchase agreements and permitting rights, and uses third party technology for the …