7 start-ups developing eco-friendly tech solutions

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This week we take a look at start-ups in the green-tech space and the technology they’re building to reduce food waste, improve energy efficiency and make transport more environmentally friendly.

This year, we have seen some of the biggest names in tech announce plans to significantly cut their carbon emissions.

It began in January, when Microsoft pledged to remove its entire carbon footprint dating back to 1975 over the next 30 years. Uber later created an $800m fund to help drivers transition to electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025, while Facebook promised to produce zero carbon emissions by 2030. Last week, Google announced that it is also aiming to emit zero emissions by 2030.

While Big Tech certainly has a role to play in creating a greener and more sustainable future, there’s an innumerable amount of start-ups approaching everyday problems with eco-friendly solutions.

This week, we take a look at some interesting players in the green-tech space, from the “Airbnb for clean energy” to a company that’s combining robots and maggots to tackle food waste.

Apeel Sciences

Based in Goleta, California, Apeel Sciences has developed a shelf-life extension technology for fresh produce that improves the quality of fruit and vegetables, while reducing food waste. Founded in 2012 by James Rodgers, the company has created a tasteless edible coating from plant-based materials to protect fresh produce.

Apeel uses materials that exist in the seeds, peels and pulp of fruit and vegetables to seal in moisture and keep oxygen out and help produce last twice as long in some cases. The start-up aims to reduce food waste throughout the supply chain with its invisible coating, which can be applied by spray, dip or brush-on methods.

In May 2020, the start-up raised $250m in funding for its seal that can coat products like avocados, citrus fruit, asparagus and apples. Following the funding round, which was led by GIC, Apeel announced that it was valued at $1bn. To date, the company has raised more than $360m in total.

Better Origin

Better Origin is a Cambridge-based start-up that was founded by Fotis Fotiadis, Joe Halstead and Miha Pipan in 2015. The company aims to fix what it describes as the “broken link” in the food system; using AI to convert insect mini-farms into essential nutrients.

The start-up’s founders believe that insects can form a bridge between food waste and food production. Better Origin has built an autonomous insect mini-farm that converts local waste, such as agricultural residues and industrial food waste into high-quality animal feed.

According to Better Origin, its technology can reduce food waste, greenhouse gas emissions and soy use, while helping farmers produce more with less. Investors in the company include Innovate UK, Metavallon VC and Green Angel Syndicate.

Facedrive

Founded in Toronto, Facedrive is a ride-sharing platform that was founded by Imran Ali Khan in 2016. The start-up describes itself as a “people-and-plant first” ride-sharing business that wants to provide commuters with a more eco-friendly alternative.

The start-up has launched its service in Canada and the UK, enabling users to select whether they want to travel in an EV, hybrid or a conventional car. Facedrive’s platform provides passengers with real-time feedback on the impact they make on the environment while using the app.

Like competitors in the space, Facedrive has expanded into other verticals including food, grocery and pharmaceutical delivery. In contrast to competitors, the start-up promises passengers that there are no price surges at peak times and it also aims to offset CO2 emissions by planting trees.

First Light Fusion

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In the past we have looked at start-ups innovating in the field of nuclear energy and it’s clear that there’s a wealth of talent and research going into fusion energy. One fusion start-up worth keeping an eye on is University of Oxford spin-out, First Light Fusion.

Founded in 2011 by Dr Nicholas Hawker and Prof Yiannis Ventikos, the company focuses on inertial confinement fusion, while working closely with the academic community in the UK and further afield. First Light Fusion is exploring a number of alternative research directions harnessing the fundamental physics of inertial confinement fusion, with a focus on power generation.

The start-up believes that its energy-focusing processes could form the foundations of a new technological platform where secondary opportunities exist in a number of alternative applications, such as material processing and chemical manufacturing. Investors in the firm include IP Group and Parkwalk Advisors.

Fuergy

Based in Bratislava, Slovakia, Fuergy was founded in 2018 by Branislav Safarik, Radoslav Stompf, Rastislav Kuba, Tomas Demcak, Branislav Kopun and Vladimir Miskovsky. The start-up has developed a proprietary, scalable hardware device and AI-powered software it calls Brain, which aims to help optimise energy consumption and maximise the efficiency of renewable energy sources.

Fuergy believes that its automated energy management technology can help users significantly reduce energy costs, making renewables more effective and affordable for the general public. The company, which has been described as the “Airbnb of clean energy” helps homes and energy producers that generate surplus solar or wind power to sell it directly to other members of their community, rather than feeding it to the grid in the traditional manner.

Fuergy’s AI platform also looks at the weather forecast and consumer habits to adjust heating settings to ensure that empty houses aren’t heated up on sunny days. Through these parameters, the start-up can figure out how much energy users have to sell on.

Goterra

Goterra is another start-up that wants to address the growing issue of food waste. Based in Canberra, Australia, the company offers waste management infrastructure for clean organics from processing, kitchen waste and other pre-consumer waste streams, all the way to post-customer restaurant and household waste.

Founded and led by Olympia Yarger, the start-up supports waste collection providers by collecting on behalf of their clients, as well as independent businesses looking for ways to recycle food waste.

The start-up has designed a modular waste management system that uses robotics and insects to process food waste, turning it into high-protein stock feed and nutritious soil conditioner. The company describes the system as “robots filled with maggots” that can automate and manage waste quickly.

Iron Ox

Earlier this year, we covered some of the most interesting players in the urban agriculture industry. Of the numerous start-ups developing vertical farming systems, Iron Ox is deserving of another mention, as it recently closed a hefty $20m Series B round.

Founded by Brandon Alexander and Jon Binney in 2015, Iron Ox has raised a total of $45m to date from investors including Y Combinator, Tuesday Ventures, At One Ventures and Pathbreaker Ventures. The start-up primarily focuses on agricultural robotics technology and it runs a number of indoor farms that are delivering vegetables to retailers and restaurants in California.

With the latest round of funding, Iron Ox announced plans to take its business nationwide, delivering vegetables grown by its autonomous greenhouses to states beyond California. By enabling businesses to purchase locally grown vegetables, the start-up helps companies reduce their carbon footprints.

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Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com