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Nitricity's on-farm setup. Image credit: Nitricity

Brief: Khosla & others pour $20m into Nitricity’s on-farm nitrogen production tech

October 18, 2022

Why it matters:

Nitrogen fertilizer is critical to global food production. It is also linked to negative environmental impacts at all steps of its journey, including how it is produced and shipped to farms.

Typical commercial nitrogen production relies on coal or natural gas and happens thousands of miles away from the farms on which it is applied. 

By contrast, in the natural world, lightning breaks down nitrogen in the air and rainwater brings it to the soil as nitrate. 

It’s this latter process Nitricity leverages by essentially making its own lightning. Nitricity installs an irrigation pump extension in a container on the farm. That container takes electricity from an adjacent solar array, containerizes the lightening produced and uses it to produce fixed nitrogen in a solution with water. It then injects the solution into the farm’s existing irrigation system. 

Nitricity’s technology deployed at scale could reduce the environmental consequences of nitrogen fertilizer production while lowering costs for farmers, who still face a volatile market.

Nicolas Pinkowski, CEO and co-founder of Nitricity, said in a statement that his company has “aggressive growth plans in motion” for this decentralized nitrogen-making process. So far, Nitricity has tested its technology on commercial-scale farming operations through multiple pilots.

Backing from a high-profile investor like Khosla Ventures is another vote of confidence.

“Today’s fertilizer industry is facing the perfect storm of high GHG emissions, high fossil fuel consumption, rising costs and geopolitical disruptions,” Rajesh Swaminathan, a partner at Khosla, said in a statement. “Nitricity’s decentralized approach to manufacturing fertilizers using just air, water and renewables-based electricity was born out of a vision to completely transform a 100-year-old industry, and we are excited to be partnering with them.” 

Nitricity plans to have its technology in the market within the next two years. 

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