7 start-ups transforming energy and the environment

7 Nov 2019

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These seven start-ups are seeking new ways to make life on the planet more sustainable, from creating biodegradable plastic to transforming agriculture as we know it.

While selecting the Technology Pioneers of 2019, the World Economic Forum (WEF) put a significant focus on start-ups making strides in the areas of renewable energy and the environment.

Considering the ongoing climate crisis, innovation in these fields is needed now more than ever, and so there were a handful of start-ups tackling waste reduction, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture among the 56 pioneers named by the WEF.

Here, we look at seven start-ups from the list, dealing with issues from wastewater to single-use plastic.

Alesca Life

Founded in 2013, Alesca Life’s vision is to enable communities to grow fresh and healthly produce, while making agriculture more efficient, transparent and accessible.

The start-up enables hotels, restaurants and even private homes to produce food in automated “cabinet farms” that use nearly 25 times less water and land than traditional methods.

These hydroponic mini-farms rely on Alesca Life’s cloud-connected digitisation software, which aims to improve output and efficiency.

Co-founders Stuart Oda and Kazuho Komoda have headquartered the start-up in Beijing, where the company is developing its next-generation urban farming solution.

Arcadia Power

US start-up Arcadia Power was founded to make clean energy an easy and accessible choice for everyone. The company was established in 2014 by Kiran Bhatraju and Ryan Nesbitt.

To date, the company has secured about $40.5m in funding from investors including G2VP, ValueAct Spring Fund, McKnight Foundation, Energy Impact Partners, Cendana Capital, Wonder Ventures and BoxGroup.

Based in Washington, DC, Arcadia Power allows users to create an account that can connect them to local community solar projects and wind farms in the US, where customers can make the move to renewable energy sources.

To date, more than 300,000 people have signed up to Arcadia Power and the company says it has connected customers to more than 1m MWh of clean energy.

Inari Agriculture

Inari Agriculture was founded in 2016 and at the beginning of August, the company closed its latest funding round, securing $89m. The Series C round brought the company’s total funding to date up to $144m. Investors in the most recent funding round included Flagship Pioneering, the Investment Corporation of Dubai, Asia-based EDBI and Acre Venture Partners.

Inari’s mission is to partner with independent seed producers, using its unique computational and genetic toolbox to introduce high performing plant varieties, improving the economic and environmental realities of production agriculture.

The company uses transformational plant breeding technology to create a more predictive, efficient, affordable and inclusive agriculture landscape that aims to be more respectful of the environment than traditional methods.

The company is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but also has offices in Indiana and Belgium.


Microvi was set up to revolutionise the wastewater industry by providing sustainable and effective solutions. Its technologies offer a smaller footprint and reduced costs, allowing the use of existing infrastructure to meet increased capacity needs.

The company has developed the MicroNiche Engineering platform, which is a step-change in how biological wastewater treatment is conducted.

The company says that this approach has many advantages including virtually no waste production, reduced compliance risks, automatic operation with minimal operator intervention, reduced chemical use and lower energy costs.

Microvi was founded by Fatemeh Shirazi in 2004 and is based in San Francisco.


Photanol, which is a spin-out from the University of Amsterdam, was founded in 2008. To date, the start-up has raised €8m with investors including Icos Capital Management.

The Amsterdam-based start-up was founded by Klaas Hellingwerf and Joost Teixeira de Mattos, and is now led by Veronique de Bruijn. It is currently working on a breakthrough platform to transform CO2 directly into valuable compounds, such as biodegradable plastic.

Photanol’s technology and patents are based on the genetic modification of cyanobacteria to produce a broad range of biochemicals. These bacteria are natural photosynthesisers, drawing energy from sunlight and carbon from CO2.


Founded in 2010, Israel-based Tipa specialises in compostable packaging that has the same mechanical and optical properties as most conventional plastics. This means that consumers can enjoy the same level of packaging functionality, and manufacturers receive biomaterials that meet all of their needs.

The start-up, which was founded by Daphna Nissenbaum and Tal Neuman, also has a team of researchers, doctors, experts in chemistry and bioplastics, industrial experts and food engineers.

Tipa has raised around $49m to date. Investors include Blue Horizon Ventures, GreenSoil Investments and Aviva Ventures.

In Ireland, the compostable packaging has been used by The Happy Pear, the food company run by Greystones twins David and Stephen Flynn.


Agricultural consulting firm ViaVerde was founded in 2000 and is a spin-out from Brazil’s University of São Paulo.

For the last 19 years, ViaVerde has been providing services to Brazilian agribusinesses seeking innovative solutions and efficient and balanced production systems.

The company’s mission is to promote wellbeing and wealth generation by developing tropical agricultural systems and helping businesses to become more conscious of the social and environmental resources that they use.

ViaVerde offers consultation to coffee farmers, beef and dairy farmers, grain producers and a variety of other areas in agriculture.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic