As temperatures rise across the country, climate change is grabbing more headlines — and the attention of the U.S. government.
The Senate just passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which includes the most comprehensive climate legislation in U.S. history. President Biden signed the bill into law yesterday. The bill’s name is essentially an act in political branding. It focuses on inflation — which is top of mind for most Americans today — rather than climate change, which has historically been a lower priority among voters.
But make no mistake, the legislation contains a massive climate focus. In addition to lowering prescription drug prices and creating a 15% minimum tax for corporations making $1 billion or more in income, the bill calls for more than $300 billion to be invested in energy and climate reform. The investments cover renewable energy, electric vehicles, national parks and more.
Today I want to focus on three aspects the legislation covers — sustainable agriculture, forest restoration and renewable energy — and explore how startups and technology are helping to make them a reality.
Making Agriculture Green Again
The Inflation Reduction Act allocates around $20 billion to make farmland more eco-friendly. A large chunk of that money goes toward the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The program pays for farmers to implement conservation practices that both improve crop production and minimize environmental impact. Through these practices — which cover everything from water drainage management to aquaculture ponds — farmers can reduce contamination from waste or feeding runoff, improve soil health, adjust animal grazing patterns to better maintain water sources and more.
There are tons of startups focused on sustainable agriculture. RootWave uses electricity to kill weeds and invasive species without impacting native plant life. By avoiding the use of chemical herbicides, RootWave creates more sustainable and regenerative technology for farmers and gardeners. Full Harvest aims to reduce food waste by helping farmers sell “imperfect” and surplus produce in an online marketplace. And BovControl launched an app to help farmers monitor their livestock using cloud technology. The startup is working to feed 1 billion people per day and offset 50 million tons of carbon emissions by 2025.
Protecting the Forests
The National Forest System also benefits from the Inflation Reduction Act through funding for forest restoration. The owners of state or private forests can receive grants for climate mitigation, forest resilience and more.
Forest restoration simply means creating and maintaining healthy, resilient forests. And data is rapidly becoming one of the most important tools in forest restoration efforts. Vibrant Planet is a startup that harnesses the power of data to create cloud-based visualization tools to help forest stewards better manage the land, prevent fires and create healthier forests. The startup — which recently raised a $17 million seed round — won grant funding through the Cisco Foundation’s $100 million climate portfolio.
The founders of Vibrant Planet embrace the natural land management practices pioneered by indigenous communities. And through its software-as-a-service for forest management, Vibrant Planet hopes to accelerate forest restoration efforts. (I hope it does too!)
Shifting to Renewable Energy
The Inflation Reduction Act includes funding for a variety of programs related to renewable energy. It also extends tax credits for producing electricity from renewable sources — including wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower.
Flower Turbines is a startup that’s bringing aesthetic appeal to wind power. The company creates tulip-shaped vertical axis wind turbines that are quieter and more efficient than other wind turbines. Horizontal axis wind turbines are the more popular design, but vertical axis turbines have their advantages. Vertical axis turbines are better suited for residential homes and urban areas given their smaller size and efficiency. They’re powered by wind coming from all directions, so they can work well in areas where land ordinances prevent tall horizontal axis turbines that need steady wind to generate power. (Flower Turbines is also rated highly by our friends at KingsCrowd.)
Laminar Scientific harnesses the power of ocean waves to generate electricity. Wave energy is more predictable than wind and solar, and it’s so dense that we don’t need massive power stations to capture it. Laminar has already received $150,000 from the Department of Energy for a simulation effort.
As the government continues to focus on battling climate change, we’re only going to see more eco-focused startups join the fray and snap up government funding. That’s a good thing. The more innovation, the better — for the sake of our planet.