The key to building climate resilience
The more biodiversity, the more resilient the ecosystem, and the better species within the region will be due to it. When the number of individuals in a population drops too low, its contributions to ecosystem functions are eroded, its genetic variability and resilience are reduced and its contribution to human welfare may be lost. Luckily, a toolkit of solutions exists to protect the natural infrastructure we rely on to safeguard water quality, moderate global temperatures, ensure that there are insects to pollinate our crops and natural predators to decrease the presence of pests, and more.
Regenerative Agriculture: Restoring nature means reorienting our global food system. Shifting farming goals from a myopic focus on crop yield to an integrated emphasis on ecological health, microbial diversity, and soil quality will be key to reversing biodiversity loss. In recent years, nature-based practices, ranging from rotating crops & livestock, adding cover crops, and abstaining from synthetic inputs and tillage, have gained traction amongst companies ranging from General Mills and Danone North America to Land O’Lakes and Cargill. While these techniques have traditionally only been feasible in a small context, innovations driven by downstream consumer demand for cleaner, more nutrient-dense food are now striving to enable regenerative production at scale.
Trace Genomics and Pattern Ag use genomics and machine learning to uncover the environmental DNA (eDNA) of living soil. By combining these measurements with the data produced by Granular Ag and Arable’s farm management software, growers can make more informed agronomic decisions on an acre-by-acre basis. Meanwhile, Andes Ag and Loam Bio are inserting or coating seeds with naturally occurring microbes to displace chemical treatments that perpetuate herbicide resistance. And AI-powered robots produced by Aigen, Earthsense, and the Small Robot Company are monitoring, seeding, and weeding in a less invasive, chemical-intensive way. In a not too distant future, these units will be able to treat crops with the next generation of natural “biologicals” - i.e., biopesticides, biostimulants, biofertilizers - produced by Pivot Bio, Kula Bio, Ascribe Bio, Pluton Bio, and many more.
Biotechnology: Reorienting our food system also requires rethinking our overexploitation of animals and the plants we clear or cultivate to feed them. In the ocean, this means moving away from industrial aquaculture and returning to selective-fishing techniques that minimize harm to less plentiful stocks. On land, this means transitioning from ‘factory farms’ towards holistically managed grazing systems that can regenerate grassland, increase organic soil matter, protect watersheds, and sequester carbon. It is important to acknowledge that these production systems come with land-use tradeoffs, which render them unable to satisfy the global demand for animal products. In this context, SynBio companies like Circe, Meati, Wildtype, and MeliBio will be necessary to stymie biodiversity loss by replacing supply chains that are land, water, species, and chemical-intensive.
Landscape Restoration: Agricultural reform must happen alongside efforts to regenerate neglected carbon sinks and degraded farmland rendered unusable due to soil erosion. With this in mind, startups are using technology to identify degraded land assets to restore for a higher environmental purpose. Propagate Ventures equips landowners with its Overyield mapping software and financing channels to implement agroforestry systems that add value to land through perennial crops. And Farm's cross-platform product is identifying, investing in, and restoring undervalued land across the Great Plains. Beyond the reforestation tools mentioned in a previous post, Salo Sciences and Dendra Systems are also leveraging satellite data, ecological modeling, and AI to guide solutions that restore biodiversity.
Ecosystem Services Markets: In the future, we envision a world where natural capital exchanges go beyond selling carbon to offer holistic biodiversity credits. In doing so, market makers will need to work with technologies that transcend capital-, time-, and labor-intensive surveys and samples to accurately index relevant flora and fauna. In theory, platforms like Cultivo can serve as a docking station for companies using computer vision, LiDAR, and machine learning to conduct accurate above-ground species accounting, in addition to eDNA services leveraging below-ground species measurements (fungi, bacteria, insects, and nematodes). But with it being near impossible to map every organism in a vibrant ecosystem, protocols will be left to determine which species to track and how to handle the permanence of organisms with finite lifespans.
Circular Economy: Upwards of 400M tons of heavy metals, solvents, and toxic sludge are dumped into our waterways annually, enough to fill more than 145,454 Olympic swimming pools. Stymying this problem requires closed-loop solutions in which waste streams are repaired, reused, or recycled into a valuable resource to create something new. With the textile industry being the world's second most polluting industry, companies like Evrnu, Spinnova, and Tencel are upcycling cotton scraps from different steps in the value chain to create premium renewable fibers. In contrast, Rubi Laboratories incorporates a cell-free synthesis approach to turn carbon emissions from energy facilities into sustainable textiles. One day, these next-generation materials will use Algaeing's algae-based dyes or Ever Dye's recyclable and reusable colors made of green wastes and minerals.
ReGen Ventures exists to partner with the pragmatists who see this challenge as the chance of a lifetime to build solutions that will help rebuild nature. These innovations will go beyond financial returns to unlock new natural capital markets that slow climate change, reduce pressure on terrestrial & marine ecosystems, limit pollution, increase the availability of nutrient-dense food, and boost human health. If this is the type of big hairy audacious problem you are solving or researching, drop us a line!