A growing and exciting area of sustainability investment is “nature tech” – technologies that help preserve or rehabilitate natural landscapes and biodiversity, and also help companies reach net zero goals. Last year, investors put $2 billion in the sector, up 52 percent from the year prior, according to PwC.
Much of the momentum is due to mounting pressure for corporations and governments to minimize anthropogenic damage to the natural world. It hit a significant milestone at COP15 in December 2022 with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, a global agreement meant to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems and protect indigenous rights that included a $200 billion annual investment in nature protection.
At London Climate Action Week in June, nature tech startups were on hand to present their technologies to restore the Earth’s natural systems–everything from methods to verify carbon credits to advanced satellite mapping to pick the right reforestation and rehabilitation projects.
These three startups showcased there represent the kind of nature tech that speaks to the future of the sector. (The full list is here.)
Nature Metrics is a Guildford, England-based startup that uses advanced monitoring technology to detect tiny traces of DNA in water and soil samples, which it then uses to identify every type of organism in an entire regional ecosystem. Infrastructure, energy and construction companies that are expected to disclose biodiversity risks and assessments details can work with Nature Metrics to monitor biodiversity and measure natural capital in a specific area.
Nature Metrics also has a database that can help investors pin down areas that need the most biodiversity rehabilitation. Nature Metrics currently has 500 clients like World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Resource Management. Founded in 2014, it has raised $27.4 million to date, according to Crunchbase, and it is gearing up to raise a Series B funding round in 2024.
Cultivo in Pleasanton, Calif. helps early-stage investors find forest, wetland, and agroforestry projects to invest in. Its satellites, algorithms, and software determine levels of degradation, along with other key metrics vital to determining a rehabilitation project’s financial and ecological success, such as soil moisture potential, carbon capture potential and biodiversity gains.
Once a tract of land is deemed suitable for a restoration project, Cultivo packages it for investors, laying out key performance indicators and return on investment to attract the early stage funding so often deemed too risky and expensive. Cultivo’s client network includes investors, landowners, NGOs and project developers. Founded in 2019, it has raised $2.9 million and just began looking to raise a Series A funding round.
San Francisco-based Pachama Originals tracks, identifies, and determines the best locations for successful reforestation projects using satellite-based carbon mapping that observes carbon capture indicators like tree height, structure and biomass. Traditional reforestation projects, by comparison, send staff to individually measure and calculate carbon captured per tree.
Once Pachama Originals verifies a tract of land, companies can invest in a reforestation project, and earn carbon credits toward net zero. The company works with customers like Mexico-based Toroto and Delta Land Services and is backed by five-year old climate tech company Pachama.