YC-backed climate tech startup Pina Earth has closed a $2.5 million seed funding round a year after its inception and months after its presentation at the Accelerator’s Winter 2022 Demo Day in march.
The seed is led by Franco-German VC XAnge, with participation from London-based venture capital firm Nordstar, as well as a number of business angels and serial founders, including Gustaf Alstromer (partner at Y Combinator ), Sundeep Ahuja (partner at Climate Capital), Lea-Sophie Cramer (founder of Amorelie) and Anselm Bauer-Wohlleb (Alasco, Stylight).
As we reported in February, when we took a first look at Munich-based startup Pina Earth, which is building an online platform for European forest owners to be certified to sell carbon credits – with particular emphasis on encouraging landowners to increase forest biodiversity and sustain their forests.
This is important as climate change increases the risks to tree survival, with more droughts, wildfires, disease and other extreme weather events predicted. But the startup’s premise is also that more sustainable forest management can also generate additional carbon credits for forest owners.
As a first step, the Pina Earth platform helps forest owners register their forest for carbon credits. It then sells, essentially, a high-tech forest management service – helping landowners make adaptations to their forests, such as the planting of climate-resistant tree species, which should, over the years, generate additional carbon credits compared to if they had not taken the sustainability-oriented measures that will allow the forest to absorb more carbon.
Startup uses AI modeling to predict how climate change will affect future forest growth, combined with remote data capture to monitor client projects and verify forest improvements to improve quality carbon credits.
It’s also important given the proliferation of shoddy or bogus carbon offset projects during the ‘greenwashing’ rush over the past decade+, as companies rushed to claim that ‘they were taking action to reduce their company’s climate impact – when, too often, not actually taking meaningful action.
The reputation of offsetting as a tool in the fight against climate change remains low – while tree-based offsetting attracts particular skepticism given the timeframes involved and the difficulty of long-term monitoring to ensure that the claimed carbon sequestration is actually happening – but given the scale of the challenge facing humanity, rapidly reducing carbon emissions in order to avoid climate catastrophe, offsetting will undoubtedly have a role to play in the mixture of solutions.
When we spoke to Pina Earth co-founder and CEO Dr. Gesa Biermann earlier this year, the startup was operating two pilot projects on 1,200 hectares in its home market of Germany and preparing for a commercial launch this year. .
Since then, she says she has focused on moving from initial pilots to expanding her reach in Germany. The commercial launch is still pending.
“We also recently recruited new team members for key positions, in technology, forestry and business,” she told TechCrunch. “We are moving from initial pilot projects – which helped us develop our core technology – to adding thousands more acres of forestry projects to our pipeline. We are currently in private beta with the owners of the respective forests – testing key features ahead of our public launch of the platform later this year.
Regarding product development, Biermann says the seed funding will be used for “critical stages of carbon project development, including project area eligibility verification, data collection, carbon optimization potential and finally the project documentation”.
“After completing the process of our first projects, we translate our learnings into repeatable processes, automating the bottlenecks of carbon project development,” she continues. “We have already built software to predict the effect of climate change based on a digital twin of the forest. Next, we aim to replace the information traditionally requested from forest owners with third-party data sources to increase speed and independence. We are further expanding our carbon project toolbox, learning how to simulate the effect of different types of forest adaptation methods in our software. This will help us meet the needs of a wide range of forest owners.
When asked if the startup expects to launch into other European markets or would it need to relaunch before taking that step, she brings up the prospect of imminent expansion without offering a yes or a no. unclear – suggesting that it is taking advantage of being able to rely on its new networks of European investors to “build links with key players”, before adding: “We are also approached by forest owners and developers of projects around the world and want to bring our product to other regions. After all, more than half of Europe’s forests are vulnerable to climate risks — a pressing problem to be solved.
“Our priorities for the next 12 months are to automate other parts of the carbon project development process, to expand to thousands of additional hectares of forest in Germany and to sell our first carbon credits to financially incentivize forest owners to adapt their forests to climate change. These priorities are guided by our mission: to provide landowners with the most accessible way to be rewarded for making their forest climate resilient. »
Commenting on the Pina Earth seed lift in a joint statement, Nadja Bresous, Partner (Paris) and Astrid Moullé-Berteaux, Partner (Berlin) of XAnge, said: “XAnge is proud to continue to invest in climate technologies and to support the adaptation of European forests. Pina Earth’s technology generates high-quality nature-based European carbon credits, for which demand will continue to grow. This investment is a contribution to protecting the financial and environmental value of forests.
Although there are a number of other more established startups focused on expanding access to carbon markets – such as SilviaTerra (now called NCX) in the US – Biermann says Europe remains a “ blue ocean opportunity” for forest carbon markets.
“Part of this is due to the challenge of a more fragmented ownership structure, which means smaller carbon projects. As a result, the low barriers to entry for forest owners, automation and the efficiency are at the heart of our product strategy,” she suggests.