Climate Tech Canada - Issue #4
Week of January 24, 2022
Welcome to issue #4 of Climate Tech Canada! I’m Justin, and every two weeks I share a round-up of what’s happening in Canadian climate tech. (I made a mistake publishing, so this one’s arriving a little late!) I’ll be trying something new in upcoming issues - sharing some deeper dives into specific areas of climate tech and what I’m learning. Let me know what you think in the comments!
In this issue:
What’s new since our last issue
Growth and funding
Opportunities and events
A deeper dive: Food Waste
It’s been a hot minute since our last issue, so here are some of the big things that have happened over the past few weeks. The Prairies have been busy!
The Alberta government announced $30M in funding for carbon capture projects
Platform Calgary and SVG Ventures launched the THRIVE Agrifood Innovation Digital Hub in Calgary
The Federal government invested $3M to open the Energy Transition Centre, also in Calgary, focused on clean energy startups
Trudeau issued mandate letters for his ministers, including a long list of climate and tech-related objectives and promises
Speaking of the Prairies, check out this op-ed from Emmertech’s Sean O’Connor and Kyle Scott on the potential for Canadian ag-tech. Their piece echoes something I’ve been thinking about more lately; the local advantages present in Canada that can be leveraged in climate tech. Some examples include our international brand in agriculture and deep, specialized talent pools like Ontario’s auto sector or Alberta’s energy industry.
And finally, 13 Canadian companies made the Cleantech Group’s annual “Global Cleantech 100” list! While “top 100” lists may not be the most meaningful indicator, it’s great to see Canadian companies making a substantial showing on the list across a variety of sectors.
Funding and growth
Hydrostor (Toronto, ON) received a $250M US investment from Goldman Sachs to accelerate growth. Hydrostor provides long-duration energy storage by using compressed air to displace water, and then releasing water to drive turbines when that energy is needed by the grid. Check out this video on how it works.
Ionomr Innovations (Vancouver, BC) raised $18M in Series A funding to help the company scale. Ionomr produces ion exchange membranes used in hydrogen production and fuel cells. Ionomr was also named to Cleantech Group’s “Cleantech 100” list.
Chrysalix VC (Vancouver, BC) launched its $100M Chrysalix RoboValley Fund. The fund is focused on early-stage companies around the world working on intelligent systems, resource productivity and clean solutions for resource intensive industries.
Conexus Ventures (Regina, SK) added an additional $15M to its agtech fund, Emmertech. The fund is focused on early-stage agtech and growing Canada’s role in the industry.
Here & There
CarbiCrete kicked off a commercial pilot project with Patio Drummond.
Radicle acquired farm-based carbon offset company Carbon Farmers of Australia.
Wealthsimple launched a new green ETF.
Ikea expanded its partnership with Toronto-based Bolt Logistics to expand its EV fleet.
Guelph launched the Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab to bring circular practices to the city.
Aspire, a producer of insect-based proteins, and AI startup DarwinAI were recognized as one of the best sustainability-focused AI projects in the world
Project Zero Incubator: focused on circular and climate tech companies, the incubator is accepting applications until Feb 13th.
Climatebase Fellowship: a climate career accelerator run by US-based Climatebase, Fellowship applications close Jan 28th.
Cleantech Investment Summit: Hosted by Startup TNT and Foresight Canada, this pitch night aims to raise $500k for new cleantech ventures. Apply by Feb 8th.
Accelerating Cleantech Innovation in Oil & Gas Program: focused on early stage companies with clean solutions for the oil & gas sector, the program is accepting applications until Feb 15th.
Energia Ventures: UNB’s energy and cleantech accelerator, is accepting applicants for their spring cohort.
A Deeper Dive: Food Waste
One of my goals with this newsletter is to use it as a vehicle for learning. So when I came across the surprising impact of food waste in Speed & Scale and Drawdown, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to dive a little deeper. I wanted to learn a) why food waste is such a big driver of emissions, b) where solutions and points of leverage exist, and c) who’s working on solutions in this space.
So, what’s the problem?
Globally, we waste ⅓ of all food that’s produced. In Canada, that number is 58%. (It’s like buying six bags of groceries and just tossing two.) On the emissions front, food waste generates 4.4Gt of CO2 equivalent annually, or 8% of all emissions.
If we cut food waste in half by 2050, we’d avoid ~26Gt of emissions and an additional ~75Gt from related deforestation.
The main sources of emissions are:
Surplus food production - fertilizer, deforestation, etc to grow that extra 1/3
Landfill disposal resulting in methane gas which has 25x the climate impact of CO2
We could also look at the additional emissions generated by not using recovered food waste. For example, using old bread from bakeries to produce animal feed instead of newly produced grain. Using waste as inputs can replace some net-new inputs and their associated emissions.
So a) we're emitting to create waste and b) the way we waste it generates a lot of methane in landfills, and c) by not recovering, we increase the need for net-new food.
An important takeaway when evaluating solutions is that the drivers of food waste differ by region. In poorer countries, waste tends to happen earlier in the value chain - refrigeration, transport, or supply and demand issues. In richer countries like Canada, waste tends to occur further along the chain, including retail over-purchasing, rejecting food for aesthetic reasons, best before labels, or letting food go bad at home. A problem of plenty.
Who’s working on this?
I’ve grouped solutions into two main areas: preventing waste from happening, and handling waste once it occurs.
These solutions allow us to produce the right amount of food and put every calorie to its intended use. This is a broad area, touching on supply chain technology, storage solutions, tools to better coordinate buyers and sellers, democratizing demand forecasting and consumer food planning.
While this tends to be the home of enterprise software, companies like Alloy.ai from BC are helping more brands predict demand and plan inventory to avoid spoiling and waste.
There also seems to be a role here for consumer solutions like meal-planning apps and food boxes. These could help people to buy only what they need and use what the food they have already. For example, managing what’s in your pantry and providing more accurate information on whether food has gone bad than current labels.
Solutions on this side of the equation tend to focus on municipal composting and food banks, but also include using technology to match people with surplus food, consumer composting products, and recovering and repurposing food waste.
Recovery: Platforms like Second Harvest connect excess food with people who need it. Partners include grocery chains like Loblaws, who pay for the service instead of paying municipal fees for food waste disposal (legislation at work). Others in the space include Sauvegarde, Flashfood, Too Good To Go and Leftovers.
Re-Use: This seems to be an emerging trend in consumer goods and DTC, with companies like Loop and Outcast Foods building businesses with rescuing food waste at their core. For example, Loop uses discarded food to produce juices, probiotic sodas, beer and gin.
There are definitely many more companies working in this space. They’re the ones creating better supply chains, turning waste into new revenue streams, and championing lower-tech solutions like better storage bins - just maybe not under the “food waste” banner.
A few takeaways and remaining questions from me:
There seems to be a stronger focus on figuring out what to do with waste instead of preventing it in the first place. The solution that fixes a visible problem is easier to promote than the solution that stops something from happening in the first place
We’re talking about people being able to eat, and with 800M undernourished globally, equity and access should be front and centre in any solution
What do the supply chain issues look like in developing countries? Are there “malaria net” type solutions? Low-tech, low-cost solutions with big returns?
Will corporate social responsibility objectives create more demand from big retailers for food recovery solutions?
I love a good climate podcast, but it seems like I always end up listening to US shows. That’s why I’m stoked for Foresight Canada’s new “Cleantech Forward” podcast, featuring interviews with climate tech founders and innovators across Canada! It’s great hearing stories from folks doing impactful work in our own backyard.
Thanks as always for reading! If you have any thoughts or feedback, feel free to leave them in the comment!
Until next time,