Cultivo focuses on projects tackling biodiversity loss and climate change with the help of AI technology.
Nature tech and investment firm Cultivo has raised US$14 million in a series A funding round that will help it build a pipeline of nature-based carbon removal projects.
Those projects, Cultivo claims, could help to remove 3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) over the next 20 years, roughly equivalent to the EU’s annual carbon emissions, which represented 2.73GtCO2 in 2022.
The funding round was led by MassMutual Ventures and Octopus Energy Generation, with participation from Salkantay Ventures and Peña Verde. Cultivo has raised a total US$20 million in funding to date and aims to scale up its carbon removal projects to cover a surface surpassing 100 million hectares – more than double the land size of California.
The news followed a strong year for Cultivo, which last year appointed Mark Carney to is board. The firm has been using AI to originate its projects and monitor increases in carbon capture, biodiversity and water storage, as well as the social impact on local communities and land stewards.
“We are processing vast amounts of data, and machine learning kicks in to train our algorithms with ground truth data, making our forecasts and algorithms even more precise,” Dr Manuel Piñuela, CEO and Co-Founder of Cultivo, told ESG Investor. “We use AI to speed through the verification and audit process, as well as all the communications needed with third-party verifiers.”
Explaining Cultivo’s investment thesis, Piñuela said he believed climate change and biodiversity loss together formed a twinned crisis. “There is no viable path to meet our climate goals without nature, and by regenerating nature we can protect vital biodiversity and the ecosystems that underpin our economy,” he added.
A growing cohort of investors has been focusing on climate change and biodiversity loss in tandem. SLM Partners, an asset manager investing in regenerative agriculture and forestry, has been pursuing strategies that enhance natural capital to build climate change resilience. Similarly to Cultivo, it has also been spearheading innovation in nature-based carbon credits. Meanwhile, global investment and advisory firm Pollination – which is part of King Charles III’s Sustainable Market Initiative – has been investing in climate and nature simultaneously to accelerate the transition to net zero.
Attendees at this month’s in Davos reiterated the urgency of ramping up nature protection and regeneration, alongside climate action. David Craig, Co-chair of the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), spoke during the forum of a long-term plan to help bring nature and climate assessment together. Last year, a PwC analysis found that 55% of global GDP, equivalent to an estimated US$58 trillion, was either moderately or highly dependent on nature.
Cultivo’s plans to generate nature-regenerative carbon removal projects across North America, Europe and Australasia come amid growing scepticism around voluntary carbon markets. This month, The Guardian reported that cookstove projects – one of the fastest-growing carbon offset schemes, according to the Nature Sustainability journal – overstated climate benefits by as much as 1000%.
Prepared to face such criticisms, Piñuela said Cultivo would strive to focus on high-quality projects whose integrity can be demonstrated.
“We ensure that the projects are designed in the right way from the start, bringing in ecosystem partners and working with landowners, whose practices help to regenerate the ecosystem,” he said. “It’s also about ensuring that we have robust baseline data, including ground truth data, such as soil samples, and overseeing the implementation of the project. In addition, we use data to authenticate claims around carbon capture, water and biodiversity gains and social impact.”