Alternative batteries and green steel get corporate backing, while the dairy industry cleans up its footprint and satellites go hyperspectral.

Cow against a blue sky
Blue sky thinking for the dairy industry.
Photo by Anand Thakur on Unsplash

Alternative batteries

The search for alternative batteries continues to gain pace. Blue World Technologies, a Danish startup making methanol-based fuel cell batteries closed a $37.2m series B round featuring motor and generator producer Deutz. The batteries are destined for use in the maritime sector, where methanol is seen as one of the most promising ways, at least in the short term, to cut carbon emissions. Shipping company Maersk, for example, has ordered at least 12 methanol-fuelled container ships.

The funding comes as Netherlands-based Elestor, which makes a hydrogen bromine flow battery for grid storage, received $30m from investors including energy groups Equinor and Royal Vopak.

It shows a growing interest in alternatives to the ubiquitous lithium-ion battery and the general upsurge in battery investments. Corporate investments in energy storage technology have quadrupled in value in the last quarter as energy prices soar.

Manufacturers back green steel produced using hydrogen

Swedish green impact company H2 Green Steel raised a $190m series B funding round which included Schaeffler, the German industrial components manufacturer, and Marcegaglia, the Italian steel tubes company. Cristina Stenbeck, the chairman and principal owner of Kinnevik and Daniel Ek, the Spotify cofounder are also investors.

The funding will allow H2 Green Steel to build a hydrogen-powered steel plant in Boden in northern Sweden.

Not only is the deal a sign of growing interest in decarbonising steel — which accounts for 7% of global carbon emissions — but it is smart business for the industry to be hunting for alternative fuel sources as the energy crisis bites. Many governments are talking about the possibility of energy rationing for industrial users. No wonder that H2 Green Steel has pre-sold about 60% of its initial volumes even before the factory is built.

Dairy industry fights back on clean credentials

There has been a heavy focus recently on milk alternatives, from plant-based milk alternatives to ones made by bioengineered bacteria, as a more eco-friendly option. But the dairy industry — and the 1 billion or so cows in the world — aren’t going to give up without a fight, and a number of projects to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint are getting traction.

This week, Neutral Foods, the US-based carbon-neutral food company, raised a $12m funding round led by Bill Gates’ investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, joined by Kirin International, the investment arm of Japan’s Kirin Holdings, the beer and healthcare products conglomerate. A bunch of celebrity names also joined the cap table. Mark Cuban was already an investor but NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Love, Tobias Harris, and musicians John Legend and Questlove also participated in this round.

Neutral Foods tracks the greenhouse gas emissions created by the production of dairy products and buys carbon credits to compensate for those emissions. It’s also working with dairy farmers to help them reduce emissions produced on their farms.

Loans and personalised medicine for the new middle classes

The expanding middle class in emerging markets like India continues to throw up a lot of opportunities for companies.

One of this week’s big deals was a $110m series D round for Indian fintech, EarlySalary, which provides loans of up to Rs 500,000 ($6,260) to working professionals. Although 80% of Indians use banking services, nearly 50% don’t have access to credit, so this is a fruitful market gap to get into. Piramal Capital & Housing Finance, the Indian home loans company, came in on this round alongside investors TPG and Norwest Venture Partners.

Apart from access to loans, the emerging middle classes will want better healthcare, including genetic testing. MedGenome, the Indian genetic diagnostics company, raised a $50m funding round from Novo Holdings. The company said the funding would help it “democratise access to genetic testing and personal healthcare across emerging markets” and expand beyond India and South Asia to markets like Africa and the Middle East.

Satellites are going hyperspectral

There are vast fleets of satellites already monitoring the Earth, but the latest addition to this arsenal will be hyperspectral satellites that can capture images in hundreds of different wavelengths. Although Nasa launched the first satellite like this in 2000 it is only now that we’re beginning to have the technology to handle the large amount of data that these satellites can produce.

India-based Pixxel Space is one of the new crop of startups capitalising on these new opportunities. The startup completed a new funding round featuring Accenture this week. Pixxel is planning to launch a six-satellite constellation next year. It will focus on climate issues using spectral imagining to get an early warning of disasters and damage. But hyperspectral satellites will have uses for agriculture, mining and defence, too.

Fundraising in a war zone

It is not all terrible news from Ukraine. A small bright spark this week was news of $2m debt funding raised by Fairo, a Kyiv-based fintech that provides a management and accounting app for other startups. The funding came from existing investor Raiffeisen Bank.

The Ukrainian Startup Fund recently put out a report showing that Ukraine’s startup sector is showing remarkable resilience. Unsurprisingly, exports have been very volatile since Russia’s invasion in February, but they haven’t stopped. And while some 44% of startups have relocated, 56% stayed put and most of those are planning to remain where they are. If resilience is a quality to look for in a founding team, there seems plenty of it in evidence in Ukraine. Many Ukrainian startups are running short of funding, though, and it remains to be seen if other investors are as brave as Raiffeisen Bank to step in.