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Artificial trees could help save the planet. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Brian D'Souza

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Trees

Climate change has always had a rather simple yet daunting solution: plant one trillion trees. The world already holds approximately three trillion trees, so a 33% increase would be significant to say the least. The plan is viable in the long-term, but unfortunately it would require immense resource allocation and international cooperation in a time when mankind cannot agree about burning rainforests. Unfortunately, little action has been taken on the worldwide scale necessary to bring this plan to fruition. However, recent biotech innovations have offered a more efficient alternative: artificial trees.

The tech behind artificial trees

To clarify, artificial trees designate a lot more than the plastic ficus available at IKEA. Synthetic trees are actually machines called “bioreactors”. They use algae to sequester CO2 at a much higher rate than their arboreal counterparts. Algae uses a chemical process similar to plants’ photosynthesis to filter carbon out of the air. In fact, algae is capable of sequestering carbon at a faster rate using much less infrastructure. Several companies have attempted to adapt this natural process by integrating it into an urban setting and two new products were announced in the past month.

Companies at the cutting edge

One such company is Hypergiant Industries, a defense and artificial intelligence tech developer based in Austin, Texas. The company was just founded in 2018 and employs former Silicon Valley CFOs, astronauts, and generals, as well as Bill Nye, the Science Guy himself. This week they introduced the Eos Bioreactor that uses machine learning to accelerate algae’s natural carbon fixation process. Founder and CEO Ben Lamm claims “one Eos Bioreactor sequesters the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere as an entire acre of trees” making it approximately 400 times as effective as a standard tree.

When contacted, HyperGiant Industries provided ample information about their new bioreactor. The company is founded upon the idea of developing technology that improves people’s communities. They are currently showcasing the benefits of the EOS Bioreactor to spread awareness. Soon HyperGiant will begin working with potential buyers interested in carbon sequestering infrastructure. A spokesperson explained that the bioreactor is a “close system model” that uses “AI monitors light, heat, growth, water speed, pH, CO2, oxygen output and more to ensure optimal [algae] growing conditions.” HyperGiant’s dedication to details and maximizing efficiency is obvious in the fully realized end product.

Another company, Biomitech is a Mexican manufacturer with a similar vision of the future. The Biomitech reactor has a more elegant design than that of the Eos; it looks like a street art installation rather than a high-end gaming PC. However, both accomplish the same goal despite their diverging designs. Biomitech claims the structure does the work of 368 trees, a similar statistic to Hypergiant. The technology is already employed in Mexico City, and may be spreading to other urban areas soon.

What does the future look like for artificial trees?

In the last 70 years atmospheric carbon concentrations have skyrocketed, and this trend has an undeniable direct correlation with climate change. Decreasing greenhouse gas concentrations is a necessity, however it can be hard to create actionable plans to address the issue. Artificial trees may not be the only solution, but they could help filter air pollution in urban areas due to their compact size.

Beyond innovation, there is also a financial opportunity for those in the carbon fixation business. The carbon fixated from the air is u in plastics, compost, and carbonated drinks among other goods. Additionally, HyperGiant’s representative explained that the biomass produced by bioreactor algae “can then be harvested and processed to create fuel, oils, nutrient-rich high-protein food sources, fertilizers, plastics, cosmetics, and more.” Economists have indicated that selling fixated carbon could be one a trillion-dollar market by the year 2030.

For now artificial trees, algae bioreactors, and carbon markets remain newly introduced possibilities to solve a mounting environmental disaster. Today Hypergiant and Biomitech may be newly founded companies who have only just introduced their algae bioreactors, but it will be exciting to see the field develop in the following years.

Business

Tesla Battery Sees An Improvement, The Company’s Latest Patent Shows

Maryanne Derkaloustian

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As Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to make a bet on renewables, Tesla battery patents are also rolling in. The most recent patent, though? An improvement to its existing lithium-ion battery chemistry that may even be transferable to technologies like grid energy storage.

This is possibly a step towards Musk’s goal to produce a million-plus mile battery, after having partnered up with a battery research team at Dalhousie University to test new ideas for longer-lasting, crack-proof rechargeable batteries.

Since then, however, researchers looked beyond the anode and cathode for optimization, hence the proposal of mixing new chemical additives for the ideal Tesla battery.

Tesla Battery Innovates on Number of Additive Elixirs

Optimal batteries have long lifetimes at high cell voltages and temperatures but are not too expensive to produce. Previously, studies have shown promising results with the addition of three to four additives to an electrolyte, but two was a stretch.

Tesla’s patent is unmatched, however. Researchers are in the process of testing pairs of known additives in many different percentages to find the right “elixir.”

For a lot of combinations, no one can predict the outcomes; it’s a trial-and-error process. Because this technology is still at such an early age, it may not even be patentable. However, it still makes a statement and is likely to provide interesting findings.

Tesla Battery Has Positive Outcomes

All the testing going on may be costly and lengthy, but that won’t be a problem in the long run. Eventually, once the team finally discovers the right recipe and starts producing in bulk, the company will have saved a considerable amount of money.

Not to mention, using a two-additive system as opposed to the conventional three or four will definitely make the battery more accessible at scale.

The patent also mentions that some formulas doubled the amount of possible recharges maintaining 95% capacity reduction. Consequently, this would reduce the number of batteries people would need to buy (and hence, waste).

And since this technology is applicable to larger batteries, Musk may actually be able to have his million-plus mile vehicle battery. Additionally, grid energy storage systems can also benefit from this chemical innovation and set the bar high for future improvement.

Tesla’s Continued Focus on its Energy Business Yields

Tesla’s renewed focus on its energy business is an interesting one. Several of Tesla’s patents, including this one and “storable” solar energy harvesting, exhibit solutions for sustainability and accessibility. What’s next for Tesla Energy? We’ll have to see.

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Business

InterContinental Hotel Group Inks Deal With Energy Management Software Company

Rich Bowden

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Energy management software company Tempus Energy has just signed a deal with the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG). The scope of the deal includes Tempus supplying green energy sensor technology to several of the group’s hotels in Australia. To start, IHG’s flagship InterContinental Hotel in Sydney’s Double Bay will be the first to deploy the software. Specifically, the software senses how much power to use, depending on the real-time availability of green energy in the grid. This allows IHG to alter the time it uses energy to take advantage of when renewable energy is available. 

Energy Management Software Automates Adjusting Energy Consumption In Real-Time

The key benefit of energy management software is that it allows clients to adjust energy consumption in real-time. Further, it does so in an automated fashion.

“We have machine learning models that predict the output of each renewable generator in the NEM, every 5 minutes,” Sara Bell, Tempus Energy’s CEO told theRising.

“Using these predictions, Tempus optimizes energy use to increase their usage of renewables, naturally decreasing usage when renewables are not available. This leads to a direct reduction in the carbon emissions of electricity used by our clients, without changing overall consumption,” she added.

Energy management software allow hotels to reduce their carbon footprint, reducing the need for companies to buy renewable energy contracts.

The Scale In Which Energy Management Software Can Reduce Carbon Emissions

Tempus’s technology will help clients like IHG take reducing their carbon footprint into their own hands. By doing so, there is no need for additional government involvement.

Responding to increasing customer calls for more sustainability, the sensors allow the group to reduce emissions by accessing green energy. Moreover, it helps to reduce the reliance on energy from fossil fuels

“By optimizing for the use of renewables on an air-conditioning chiller energy unit in Australia, we are able to achieve up to 15% reduction of carbon emissions,” Bell told me.

Summary: And A Look At Sustainability Trends In Australia

With the increased focus on climate change in Australia — including the rapidly growing school strikes —  forward-looking companies are responding to the climate crisis.

One of these new technologies is the Tempus Energy sensor. It gives hotel groups and other companies flexibility and act as a base for further sustainable measures.

Australian, NZ, and South Pacific readers of theRising who work in environmental sustainability may reach out at richbowden3@gmail.com.

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Business

E-Waste Is Becoming A Sustainability Disaster. And Investors Have Taken Notice.

Avery Maloto

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E Waste

As technology continues to evolve (and end up in landfill), e-waste is proving to be a sustainability disaster. In 2018 alone, humans generated approximately 2.01 billion tons of waste worldwide. To put things into perspective, 2.01 billion tons is comparable to 287,142,857 elephants or 275,342 Eiffel Towers. Certainly, that volume of waste sent into landfills is a significant concern. And along with it, potentially reusable resources are continuously wasted as a result of careless disposal. 

Shockingly, e-waste is responsible for 50 million tons of the total generated waste produced each year. Not to mention, it accounts for 70% of the toxic waste lying in landfills. 

To uncover more about the e-waste issue, I recently interviewed Amanda O’Toole, a fund manager at AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM). She is a part of the firm’s investment team as the Lead Portfolio Manager for Framlington Equities’s (AXA IM’s qualitative equities business) Clean Economy Strategy.

We discussed the primary challenges in e-waste as well as why financiers are looking towards waste management as an investment opportunity.

Why Is E-Waste So Hard To Recycle?

When dealing with the improper disposal of hazardous materials, there is a constant risk of land and water pollution through contamination. E-waste similarly causes these pollutive consequences.

For example, batteries leak heavy metals such as lead, barium, and lithium into the soil when placed in a landfill.

As a result, these heavy metals seep into groundwater channels, which eventually enter larger bodies of water like ponds or streams. And as technology continues to develop, the demand for new electronics continues to rise. Estimates show that the number of connected devices will reach 31 billion by 2020.

In O’Toole’s words, “without fundamental change throughout the electronic supply chain, the e-waste epidemic will get worse.”

Amanda OToole
Amanda O’Toole tells us “without fundamental change throughout the electronic supply chain, the e-waste epidemic will get worse.”

Although many companies do already run their own programs for the recycling of e-waste, the reclamation of e-waste is a difficult and complex process.

While complex electronics can contain up to 60 elements from the periodic table, the process of recovering these devices can be complicated and costly.

The question now arises: If it is complicated and costly, what other ways can we deal with e-waste?

Future Economic Potential In E-Waste

The way that O’Toole sees it, e-waste is of particular interest from an investment perspective because of the value of the materials it contains.

When a company is able to extract these raw materials safely, they are able to create a valuable product that can generate revenue.

If the extraction process is cost-effective, it is possible to generate a financial return by reducing e-waste. And in some cases, securing a stable supply of a material may be challenging.

Striving For Clean Technology Through Investments

For the last six months, O’Toole has been working to launch a successful new strategy focused on promoting clean technologies.

In her Clean Economy Investment strategy, she talks about how the fund adopts a unique approach that invests in diverse areas of the market that enjoy structural growth.

Surprisingly, many of these areas are not dependent on macroeconomics. Instead, the product gears towards the interest of mainstream investors.

Through this strategy, O’Toole engages with clients who are not typically interested in environmental value. And with her guidance, clients begin to move towards these areas of the market.

Appealing To the Public

Recently, the rise in social awareness of environmental issues is driving change. This change is partly due to regulations such as building performance regulation and effluence discharge monitoring.

However, consumer demand for things such as meat alternatives and recyclable packaging comprises a majority of the market’s change. In return, brands accommodate this change by developing responsible sourcing policies.

To its advantage, the fund is utilizing this societal trend and implementing it in their own main areas of focus. 

Currently, the fund identified four sub-themes to best represent opportunities for long term secular growth in the Clean Economy:

  1. Sustainable Transport
  2. Smart Energy
  3. Responsible Nutrition
  4. Recycling and Waste Reduction

Framlington Equity’s intention is to invest in publicly listed equities in areas of the global economy which benefit from secular tailwinds. And In the long term, O’Toole argues that consumers will continue to demand the transportation of goods and services; the provision of energy, food, and water; and the use of materials. 

The Bigger Picture

The common theme across the investments that AXA IM makes through the Clean Economy strategy is that these are companies whose goods and services make economic sense for their customers.

Adoption is not dependent on subsidies or a desire by corporates to address environmental issues.

The business case for adoption is based on the need to meet more stringent regulatory requirements. Additionally, companies can gain market share by addressing the growing demand for sustainable consumer products.

Brands would want to invest in order to mitigate potential reputation damage associated with a poor environmental footprint and build a sustainable production cost advantage.

Summary

Companies operating within the clean economy have a critical responsibility to ensure they offer the best solutions for clients while being mindful of the environment.

What’s more, is that when companies demonstrate how their goods and services outperform on relevant environmental metrics, they can gain a competitive advantage.

Financiers have noticed and made waste management a part of their investment strategy.

Final Notes: Is your company doing something to reduce its e-waste or carbon footprint? If so, we’d love to hear from you at tips@mediusventures.com.

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