CEFC and Cannon-Brookes partner in agrifood tech venture | RenewEconomy

CEFC and Cannon-Brookes partner in agrifood tech venture

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Tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes teams up with the CEFC in fund seeking investments to cut emissions and boost innovation in agri-business.

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Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes will partner with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to make a cornerstone investment in a new venture capital fund focused on improving the sustainability of Australia’s agricultural sector.

The investment fund of Mike and Annie Cannon-Brookes, Grok Ventures, has partnered with the CEFC to make an $8 million cornerstone investment into the Tenacious Ventures fund, Australia’s first venture capital firm dedicated to sustainable innovations in the agrifood sector.

Tenacious Ventures will seek opportunities to invest in up to 20 early-stage tech start-ups in the agricultural and food supply chains and will manage a total of $30 million in funds to serve as venture capital for agricultural businesses that can reduce their emissions and increase climate resilience.

“Australian agriculture is a major exporter of food and fibre, feeding more than 60 million people per year. We are experts at efficient, climate adaptive food production – Australian farmers reduced the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of agriculture by 63 per cent between 1996 and 2016,” Tenacious Ventures co-founder Matthew Pryor said.

“But more needs to be done to develop and export agricultural technology that improves the efficiency of production on a global scale.”

Cannon-Brookes, who has been a strong advocate for investments in clean energy technologies, following his successful role in founding Australian tech giant Atlassian, established Grok Ventures with his partner Annie, and it manages investments in ventures that include autonomous vehicle company Zoox, tech-focused superannuation provider Spaceship and Australian graphic design platform Canva.

“Innovation in agriculture is desperately needed across the world to make our planet more sustainable. It’s fantastic to see the CEFC investing in agrifood tech through this commitment to Tenacious Ventures. Kick-starting this industry in Australia will take guts and expertise, and the CEFC brings both,” Cannon-Brookes said.

“There’s no doubt that new ideas in agriculture will play a massive role in reducing carbon emissions, while also delivering return on investment. The economic upside for Australia’s economy is also huge.”

In announcing the creation of a dedicated Agrifood venture capital fund in Australia, Tenacious Ventures noted the huge investment potential in a sector that Australia is currently missing out on. Up to US$16 billion has been invested in agrifood tech businesses in the last three years, but Tenacious Ventures would be the first dedicated venture capital fund to be established in Australia.

The CEFC, which as a mandate to invest in clean energy and sustainable development projects, sees the investment as a way to improve the sustainability of the agricultural sector, as well as to help the sector to respond to the emerging threats of climate change.

The CEFC’s investment in the Tenacious Ventures Fund will be made by the agency’s Clean Energy Innovation Fund, which will allocate up to $200 million in investments in early-stage clean energy technologies, in collaboration with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

“The agricultural sector poses a demanding climate change challenge: how to produce more food, more efficiently, for a growing population amid a more extreme climate, while also reducing greenhouse gas intensity and emissions,” CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said.

“As a major food exporter, Australia has an opportunity to be at the forefront of innovative technology solutions than can address these challenges.”

“With this investment, the CEFC is supporting an exciting Australian industry of the future with the potential to make a meaningful contribution to lowering global emissions while supporting our agriculture sector,” Learmonth added.

Around 12-13 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the agricultural sector, driven primarily by the raising of sheep and cattle. Globally, particularly when the full supply chain for agricultural products is taken into account, up to 30 per cent of global emissions can be attributed to food production.

Emissions from the global agricultural industry are anticipated to grow into the future, with the global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, placing greater pressure on a sector that is already feeling the impacts of climate change.

The CEFC has previously supported food producers to reduce the emissions footprint of their operations and to support agricultural businesses to incorporate renewable energy technologies into their operations. This included an investment in the $200 million Sundrop farms project, which integrated solar thermal technologies to supply heat and energy to greenhouses in Port Augusta, for the efficient production of tomato crops.

As RenewEconomy reported in May, the Sundrop farms solar thermal technology business was sold to New Zealand-based infrastructure group Morrison & Co., that as also received investment backing from the CEFC.

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1 Comment
  1. Alastair Leith 7 months ago

    That ~14% of national GHG emissions people cite for Australian Ag is a misnomer, the result of a UNFCCC methodology for sectorial emissions that minimises, obscures and outright hides the true level Ag sector emissions. The Beyond Zero Emissions Land Use Plan found that emissions from the Land Use (Ag) sector 2006-2010 were 54% (GWP₂₀) using the same national AGEIS data, but collated more thoroughly.

    The first accounting trick that’s used in UNFCCC accounting is to move all land clearing, re-clearing and savanna burning out of the Ag sector into the Land Use/Land Use Change & Forestry (LULUCF) sector. There the emissions gets summed with the CO2 sequestration from all of our National Parks, state forests and privately owned forestry plantations. The Ag sector are not “entitled” to those claim those offsets from our forests, in many cases these forests and NPs are the only land which farmers haven’t clear because it was too difficult to clear, and yet effectively it’s used to hide Ag emissions because when the sum of LULUCF is arrived at it’s often a positive number, “nothing to see here” at the top level of sectorial emissions.

    Another problem with the standard UNFCCC methodology for GHG emissions accounting is that they use a 100 year time horizon for all greenhouse gases. N2O is the only gas that has a ~100 year lifetime in the atmosphere which makes that appropriate. CO2 has a complex decay curve, but while half it is gone in 10 years much of it is still there in 1,000 years, so 100 years is not inappropriate for CO2. Short Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP) like methane only live in the atmosphere a much shorter time than 100 years. In the case of methane it lasts around 12 years in the atmosphere (half life 7 years), so if you convert it’s radiative forcing effect to what’s known as a “CO2 equivalent (CO2-e)” — which is what carbon accounting does — using a 100 year time horizon, for 88 years there are virtually no methane molecules around to do the atmospheric warming, just the resultant CO2 (and some tropospheric ozone, itself a potent GHG). A more appropriate time horizon for methane and other SLCPs is 20 years, because in 20 years we will have either committed the Earth to catastrophic warming of 2.0 ºC and a likely runaway warming scenario or not.

    Back to agriculture, livestock production is a large producer of methane, via enteric fermentation, bacteria in the stomachs of ruminants that converts cellulose to sugars, and as a by product produces methane gas, breathed out of the animals mouth into the atmosphere. Plenty of regenerative ag self-declared experts are claiming that methane isn’t a problem, because of “natural carbon cycles” and such like rubbish.

    A CO2 molecule sequestered into grass that ends up converted to methane comes out at 86x the potency over 20 years (IPCC AR5 Ch 8, 2014). That means we need to see a lot of CO2 molecules permanently sequestered to offset the warming of that methane molecule over the next 20 years, 86x as many on a tonne CO2 per tonne methane basis to be precise. One years growth in soil carbon offseting one year of methane emissions on a pasture running cattle is, as it turns out, not credible, even with whatever HM, RG, improved pasture/crop or hand delivered feed-supplement you want to consider.

    When Beyond Zero Emissions summed all the Ag sector emissions (2006-2010) including land clearing, re-clearing, savanna burning (produces several different SLCPs) and enteric fermentation you arrive at a national emissions for Ag of 54% of Australia’s total emissions (GWP20). Even using 100 year accounting that minimises methane, black carbon etc it will soon be 50% of emissions as the SE and transport sector move rapidly to RE.


    Same emissions data from AGEIS reallocated using ANZSIC sectors:

    Global warming potential over 20 years (GWP20) vs GWP100:


    Where are the Ag sector emissions coming from?



    How can we make this sector carbon neutral (regenerative farming, reforestation/agroforestry and limited beef and sheep production basically):


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