Artificial intelligence Clean tech and energy Startups Venture

AI + Carbon = Funded Startups

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Artificial intelligence and carbon removal are two of the hotter themes for startup funding in recent months. So what if you combined the two?

We explored this question in an effort to see how much investment is going to companies touting expertise in both AI and in technologies tied to reducing carbon footprints. Turns out, quite a few funded startups tout credentials in these two areas.

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The past two years have been particularly active, with more than $400 million going to dozens of seed- through late-stage rounds straddling these two focus areas. Using Crunchbase data, we curated a list of 15 companies at the intersection of AI and carbon, each of which has raised $10 million or more:

Carbon-tracking software

Carbon-tracking software is an especially popular focus area, and one of the larger funding rounds was pretty recent. Sylvera, a London-based climate software startup, landed $57 million in a July Series B led by Balderton Capital. The 3-year-old company applies machine learning and geospatial data analytics to assess carbon projects that capture, remove or avoid emissions.

Pachama, a startup that uses satellite data and AI software to help companies vet and invest in carbon credits, has also been moving up the fundraising charts.The San Francisco-based company is known for its focus on reforestation and forest protection projects. It pulled in $55 million in a Series B last year, drawing a mix of climate VCs and celebrity backers.

Others are developing software for enterprises to track their carbon emissions and find ways to reduce their footprints. This includes Emitwise, a U.K. upstart that describes itself as a carbon accounting platform for businesses with complex supply chains. It also includes Plan A, a Berlin startup with offerings that include a carbon screener to estimate a company’s carbon footprint.

Drones, buildings and the grid

The company on our list with the most funding, meanwhile, is Alameda, California-based Saildrone, operator of a fleet of unmanned boats that collect ocean data. The 11-year-old company, which has raised $189 million to date, cites oceanic ecosystem monitoring as one of its core use cases, including efforts to measure how much carbon the ocean absorbs.

Back on solid ground, London-based Arloid Automation is deploying AI to move buildings closer to net zero. Its tools continually analyze site-specific data to determine the most efficient energy approach for each part of a building.

BluWave-ai, out of Ottawa, is all about optimizing the grid for clean energy. Its platform balances the cost, availability, and carbon footprint of different energy sources and energy storage, along with demand, in real-time.

Not just buzzwords

Looking at startup funding announcements, it’s easy to get the impression that AI is becoming the tech equivalent of salt: an ingredient that’s in just about everything.

Looking at our funded companies list, however, it’s clear artificial intelligence is doing heavy lifting in some very complex analyses. This includes continuous tracking and interpretation of sensor data and helping automate decision-making around optimal energy use and investments in reducing carbon footprints.

In sci-fi films, we’re usually rooting against AI systems that manage to do what humans cannot. In the case of carbon reduction, however, it might be nice to see the computers take a more leading role.

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Illustration: Dom Guzman

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