Cleantech Meets Space: A month’s worth of deals changing how we see the planet

Josh Gilbert

Here at CTG, it is our goal to keep our network of investors and corporates up to date with the latest trends, and share our perspective on the industries we cover that are simply doing “more with less.”

As an example of one such industry, we are looking at spacetech, satellite networking, and geographic information systems (GIS) as specific areas where venture capital has become increasingly utilized, with significant cleantech relevance.

Through the billionaire-backed efforts of SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, the space sector has been recapturing our imaginations. But beyond these headlines, there are satellite & GIS companies working on solutions for core cleantech areas, such as agriculture & food, energy efficiency, and water security. This technology is helping to revolutionize changes in these industries, providing access to higher quality data and leading to strategically impactful adaptations.

This area warrants much more of an in-depth study than this blog (which we will provide in our upcoming October edition of CTG Insights), but in the spirit of “sharing what we are seeing,” I want to highlight a few of the satellite companies with cleantech applications that have raised funding in the last month alone (August 2017).

Geospatial analytics company Descartes Labs announced $30 million in Series B funding last month. The round was led by Santa Monica-based VC March Capital, with participation from energy-focused VC Crosslink Capital, agriculture-specialist Cultivian Sandbox, and agricultural commodities giant Cargill.

Descartes Labs’ machine-learning-powered satellite analysis has initially been built around an agricultural forecasting package, with applications ranging from imaging solutions for precision agriculture to macro-level food security predictions. For example, using spectral imaging, the imaging software can measure chlorophyll levels, which are invisible to the human eye, but represent a strong proxy for the health of crops. Despite the current focus, the Descartes Labs data platform can have applications far beyond the agriculture sector, in areas such as shipping & logistics, forestry, and energy infrastructure.

Finland-based ICEYE has raised $13 million in funding, from a cast of investors including both Draper Nexus and Draper Associates, True Ventures, Lifeline Ventures, Space Angels, and the Finnish governmental innovation agency, Tekes. ICEYE’s satellites provide huge amounts of data, which can currently be applied to crucial areas such as preventing illegal logging in South America, port monitoring for increased efficiency in maritime industries, and monitoring crop health.

Yet perhaps one of the most tangible areas that this technology can be felt is in smart city planning, where the ways in which cities are changing and growing can be understood instantaneously via satellite data. Armed with this knowledge, city planners can address issues before they become unmanageable, and infrastructure implementation can be introduced accordingly. For example, identifying bottlenecks from road congestion can ease both the environmental footprint of idle motors, or the identification of localized energy usage can provide invaluable information to keep the grid up and running efficiently, reducing the need for coal-powered backup generation.

On the banks of Lac Leman in Switzerland, Lausanne-based Astrocast is a developer of a low-cost network of nanosatellites for connecting the billions of IoT devices that are proliferating the ”Industry 4.0” revolution. The company raised a $3 million round of seed funding in August from the venturing arm of aeronautical multinational, Airbus, and has also received backing from the European Space Agency and the Swiss government.

With the recent funding, the company is planning the launch of its 64-satellite constellation (which will potentially be facilitated by another recent venture-funded space company, RocketLabs). When this constellation is in place, it will focus on attracting IoT/M2M systems integrators as customers, with a broad spread of sector applications, including automotive and fleet monitoring, maritime, industrial manufacturing, and water metering companies.

Munich-based CloudEO also raised funds this month, in the form of $2.4 million in seed funding from unnamed investors. The company leverages existing satellites to mine geodata for a range of industries, including forestry, land planning and telecommunications.

Interestingly, the start-up has also launched an independent project, the Cloudeotoken cryptocurrency for geodata, which will enable crowdsourcing, M2M communication, and the exchange of geospatial information through automated smart transactions.

 

Thanks for reading. If you have comments, or want to know more about these companies or the space/cleantech intersection at large, feel free to get in contact with josh.gilbert@cleantech.com. It’s also worth noting that this format of recent funding roundups is something I send out on a weekly basis to CTG Monitor subscribers – again, if you want to get this kind of detail on a weekly basis, do get in touch.

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