Cool Planet, the biocarbon and biofuel producer, has raised $9 million in extra funding to commercialize its soil amendment product CoolTerra, which just earned a USDA Certified Biobased Product Label.
Existing investor North Bridge Venture Partners led the round that also attracted commitments from a group of family offices and other venture investors focused on sustainability, Barry Rowan, CFO of the company, told AgFunderNews.
Cool Planet, which counts Google Ventures as an investor since its Series B in 2011, has now raised around $160 million in total after closing a $100 million Series D in March 2014. But the majority of funding until now has gone towards the company’s hydrocarbon fuel business. With oil prices as low as they are today, Cool Planet, along with others in the bioenergy sector, has put a pause on that business line, and will use this latest round of funding to advance and commercialize CoolTerra.
“We are now at the stage of conducting larger scale, comprehensive, commercial trials with the product as we continue to validate it with market and technology development partners,” said Rowan. “We are very confident of the efficacy of what we’ve seen in 100 smaller trials. We’re currently selling it in modest amounts, but we wanted to be disciplined about seeing it work across a wide range of crops, soil types, and conditions,” said Rowan.
Produced from non-food biomass and a variety of feedstocks in a process called biomass pyrolysis, CoolTerra is applied to soil at a variety of different stages depending on the crop. It has a range of benefits such as a highly porous medium, which acts like a sponge retaining water and nutrients at the root zone. Its pore structure and chemistry also provide surfaces where beneficial soil microbes can attach and flourish.
“It’s like a condominium for critters,” said Rowan. “It’s a very conducive environment for microbial growth.”
Enhancing the microbe population in the soil increases the ability of crops to uptake nutrients, and can result in larger and healthier plants, and the use of less fertilizer.
CoolTerra also has carbon sequestering properties, highlight one of the ways the agriculture sector can help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to slow global warming. Every ton of CoolTerra placed in the soil sequesters three tons of atmospheric carbon, according to Cool Planet.
While similar to biochar, CoolTerra has differentiating factors such as “removing toxins, residues and cleaning pores, adjusting key soil health properties of the material, and delivering a product designed to better retain water and nutrients at the root level”, according to a recent press release.
This year Cool Planet plans to raise another significant funding round and is looking for investors “that understand and appreciate the degradation of soil that’s going on globally and the opportunity to improve soil health with products like CoolTerra”, said Rowan.
Cool Planet recently received support from the USDA after it was awarded a $91 million loan guarantee for the construction of a biomass fuel plant in Louisiana, which can produce CoolTerra and hydrocarbon. The company also has plans to build a state-of-the-art facility in California, according to its website.
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