10 Worlds That Shook This Day

May 26, 2021 |

In 1919, journalist John Reed wrote Ten Days That Shook the World, of the crucial days of Russia’s October Revolution. Things move faster these days, and in the past 24 hours, we’ve had 10 different Worlds shaken to their foundations by events taking place around the world and within the Circular Economy.

1. United States announced as Chair of multilateral Biofuture Platform

In Brazil, the United States is in line to become the next chair of the Biofuture Platform, a multi-stakeholder initiative facilitated by the International Energy Agency (IEA) created to take action on climate change by promoting international coordination of the sustainable low-carbon bioeconomy. The US will take over from incumbent chair, Brazil, in June 2021.

Under Brazil’s chairmanship, the Biofuture Platform, which was originally initiated by the government of Brazil in 2016, has grown to include twenty member countries with a shared ambition to scale up sustainable low carbon bioenergy in the transition to clean energy. Last year the Biofuture Platform launched its Five Principles for Post-COVID Bioeconomy Recovery and Acceleration promoting international cooperation in decarbonizing the energy sector.

It’s fair to describe this move by the United States on renewable fuels as unthinkable only a few months back — a sign of shifting times and the advance in technology.

2. Renewable fuels activists elected to Exxon board in sustainability takeover, takedown

In New York, shareholders of ExxonMobil elected to the corporate board at least two members of a slate of directors put forward by a coalition of environmentalists and circular economy advocates, in an effort to turn Exxon towards a more aggressive path of energy transition to renewables. Among those elected are former Neste EVP Kaisa Hietala, who was a member of the executive team of the Finish energy giant when it pivoted from an oil & gas focus to renewables.

The proxy campaign was launched and managed by Engine No. 1, a small hedge fund with a small holding in XOM — and the campaign was bitterly and expensively opposed by Exxon management, who spent liberally from the corporate treasury on the effort to defeat the shareholder initiative. Eight candidates backed by Exxon management including CEO Darren Woods were elected, and results for the final two seats are still unclear.

3. Bowery Farming Secures $300M  in Series C Funding

In New York, words arrived that Bowery Farming, a vertical farming company, raised a whopping $300 million in its Series C funding round, bringing the total raised by the company to $472 million. It’s the biggest capital raise for an indoor farming company yet recorded.

The company said it maintains “commercial category leadership” in over 850 stores, having experienced more than 750% retail growth since January 2020–including a recently announced Albertsons Companies partnership that brings Bowery to Safeway and Acme stores–and more than 4X e-commerce sales growth. Bowery said it will use its latest investment to continue expansion of its network of smart indoor farms across the U.S., further accelerate its technological leadership, support ongoing research and innovation efforts, and recruit top talent as it reinvents the fresh food supply chain.

4. Active Energy Group to Build 2nd U.S. CoalSwitch plant

In Maine, Active Energy Group designated Ashland, Maine as the location for its second CoalSwitch production facility. AEG has partnered with Player Design to complete the facility which, at scale, could produce up to 35,000 tons of CoalSwitch per year. CoalSwitch is a “drop-in” biomass feedstock that can co-fire with coal or replace up to 100 percent of the coal in power stations without requiring plant modification. CoalSwitch produced at the Ashland facility will be shipped to PacifiCorp’s Hunter Power Plant in Castle Dale, Utah for a coal/biomass co-firing demonstration scheduled for June, 2021. PacifiCorp is the largest grid operator in the western United States serving the growing energy demands of 1.9 million customers.

PDI already has an operational log processing facility at the Ashland facility, which has been expanded to accommodate CoalSwitch production. PDI and AEG were granted a temporary operating permit by the State of Maine in April, 2021 to allow the construction of the facility as well as immediate operations between May 15 and July 31 to produce an initial amount of 1,000 oven dried tons of fuel.

5. Kula Bio Raises $10M to Advance Sustainable Agriculture

In Massachusetts, Kula Bio closed a $10 million seed round. The round was led by Collaborative Fund with participation from prominent environmental funds, including The Nature Conservancy, Lowercarbon Capital, and the Grantham Environmental Trust’s Neglected Climate Opportunities Fund.

Kula Bio makes Kula-N, a next generation nitrogen biofertilizer that helps farmers maintain yield and significantly reduce environmental impact from traditional, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Today, 90% of fertilizer in use is still synthetic and a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Kula-N can be applied via irrigation and works for all crops, enabling farmers to seamlessly transition to sustainable nitrogen. Other investors in the round include AgFunder, BOPU, Box Group, Decent Capital, Embark Ventures, iSelect Fund, and Pillar VC.

6. Renewable investments top $2 trillion, says WSJ

Marking what was described by Dominion Energy as a “tipping point,” the Wall Street Journal reported that environmentally-focused investment funds overall assets have climbed to more than $2 trillion, more than tripling since 2018, the newspaper said. And, JP Morgan said in April that it would earmarked $2.5 trillion for investment in ESG-related businesses by 2031, and Bank of America said it would add $1.5 trillion to that total by 2030.

7. Google says: Quantum Computer, commercial-grade, by 2029

In California, Google said that it aims to build a useful, error-corrected quantum computer by the end of 2029. The company said that its deployment of the technology would accelerate solutions for some of the world’s most pressing problems, like sustainable energy and reduced emissions to feed the world’s growing population, and unlocking new scientific discoveries, like more helpful AI. The company also unveiled its new Quantum AI campus in Santa Barbara, California, including the company’s first quantum data center, quantum hardware research laboratories, and quantum processor chip fabrication facilities. 

8. Formlabs 3-D printing reaches $2B valuation in Series E raise of $150 M led by SoftBank 

In Massachusetts, Formlabs raised a $150 million Series E led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2*, doubling its valuation to $2 billion. Formlabs will use the funds to continue to grow its portfolio of 3D printing technologies, enabling greater mass production and customization, as well as grow its team across its seven offices worldwide.

To date, Formlabs users have printed more than 85 million parts, including tens of millions of nasopharyngeal swabs used on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company pioneered the Fuse 1, the world’s first benchtop SLS printer – and new materials like BioMed Clear Resin and Rigid 10K, Parts made on Formlabs printers can be found in the operating room, dentist chair, your car, and your shoes, with leading companies like Ashley Furniture, Sennheiser, Google, Mayo Clinic, Northwell Health, and New Balance trusting Formlabs printers to develop, prototype and manufacture end-use consumer goods at scale. 

9. Superbrewed Food raises $45 million to date, emerges from stealth with new name, target

In Delaware, the old White Dog Labs has disappeared into stealth, shifted targets and re-emerged with a new focus and name: Superbrewed Food.

The company said that its naturally-brewed microbial protein — created by the same anaerobic fermentation process used to make beer, yogurt, and even kimchi —delivers quality, affordable nutrition that is highly nutritious, allergen-free, non-GMO, affordable and versatile.

10. The Biofuture Policy Blueprint

Back at the Biofuture Platform’s annual Summit, the organization also launched its Policy Blueprint, which aims to accelerate the growth of the sustainable bioeconomy by providing countries with the methodologies, tools, and practical guidance to evaluate and improve the impacts and effectiveness of their bioenergy and bioeconomy policies. Critical examples of successful deployment of bioenergy policies featured in the Blueprint include:

• Brazil’s RenovaBio initiative which has accelerated the overall use and production of biofuels in an effort to reduce carbon emissions from transport by 10% over a ten-year period.

• The United States’ Renewable Fuel Standard which established a blending quota for biofuels and provides financial support through the creation of tradeable certificates helping to drive adoption of bioenergy.

• The Netherlands adopting a draft target for biofuels and other renewable fuels of 27.1% for 2030, significantly higher than the EU target of 14% renewables across transportation.

The Biofuture Platform backstory

The Platform is a government-led, multi-stakeholder initiative designed to take action on climate change and support the Sustainable Development Goals by promoting international coordination on the sustainable low-carbon bioeconomy. It was launched in Marrakesh at the COP 22 climate talks in November 2016. Since February, 1, 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been the Facilitator (Secretariat) of the initiative. Brazil has been chairing the Platform since launch, and will pass on that role to the US starting on June 1st, 2021. The Biofuture Platform has twenty member countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Morocco, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal, the Philippines, United Kingdom, the United States of America and Uruguay. As a multi-stakeholder initiative, a number of international organizations, academia, and private sector associations are also involved and engaged as official partners.

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