Carbon Removal ClimAccelerator Start-Up Spotlight: Treeconomy
The London-based start-up Treeconomy uses technology to more accurately value natural assets and to use this value to drive finance into restoration and regeneration of natural ecosystems. //next columnist Markus Sekulla spoke with Harry Grocott, CEO of Treeconomy, about their data-first approach.
Markus: Hi Harry, glad to have a chat with you today about your start-up Treeconomy. Please give us the intro: Who are you, what does Treeconomy do, how many people work for you, and where are your people based?
Harry: Treeconomy is a Nature restoration company. We believe that Nature has enormous intrinsic value, a value that we don’t currently account for nor measure. We use technology to more accurately value natural assets, and use this value to drive finance into restoration & regeneration of natural ecosystems.
Currently, our focus is on the voluntary carbon market. We engage in woodland creation, rewilding and peatland restoration activities, and use our technology platform to calculate the exact amount of CO2 removed and stored in these ecosystems. We’re building a data platform that will enable large scale investment into nature, and can create world-class carbon credits through this process.
We have nine full-time members of the team, as well as some brilliant advisors. We are largely based in London, but we have employees in Portugal, Spain and Serbia too.
A carbon credits market already exists
Markus: Can you describe the moment when you knew that the idea is that great that you need to become an entrepreneur / found a company.
Harry: Rob – my co-founder – and I met at Imperial College. The concept for Treeconomy had already formed, but it was really when we did some market mapping and realised the scale of the problem that we knew we had to act. We both studied climate change-relevant degrees and knew the science base for carbon dioxide removal; that we currently emit 50Gt+ of CO2 every year, but we have to get this to Net Zero by 2050 to have any chance of maintaining the Paris targets of 2 degrees C increase in global average temperature. And we have to do this while fossil fuels will continue to be burned, and excess CO2 will be in the atmosphere.
So, the necessity for carbon removal was clear. But what was – and still is – truly shocking is that we don’t have an accurate nor scalable method to actually calculate the carbon stored in forest ecosystems. This is despite forests being the low-hanging fruit of carbon removal, and despite a market already existing for these carbon credits. We simply couldn’t see a future where we could create large scale afforestation projects without this method for carbon accounting in nature. We had to act.
Making nature valuable & investible
Markus: Which specific problem are you solving and how?
Harry: We solve the nature-data problem. There is a huge funding gap for nature restoration, and there is also a huge amount of dry powder (capital waiting to be invested). Our technology solves this problem, making nature valuable & investible.
We use a data-first approach to make nature investible, with a primary focus on the carbon removal market. We use a combination of very high-resolution satellite and drone technology, in combination with AI systems, to calculate exact carbon content of forests. With this precise data we can support investors, as well as carbon buyers, with investment and purchase decisions.
Growing number of Green Tech investors
Markus: What are the biggest problems start-ups in the field of Sustainability / Sustainable Tech are facing?
Harry: One of the largest complexities is building a truly impactful company within the venture capital ecosystem. There are a small and growing number of investors who understand that the true opportunity lies in a hybrid online-offline solution, but many we speak to want a tech-only solution. We can’t fix the climate crisis with digital-only solutions, but this does force us to be really thoughtful for how we design and build our company.
People make the change
Markus: For someone who works in the climate crisis solution field, what do you think can we as individuals and communities do to save the planet and what future challenges do we need to tackle now?
Harry: I think the biggest thing we can do is to talk about it and keep it at the front of mind. It fundamentally comes down to us as people to make the change; whether that is people in governments, people in companies, or people as individuals. We all have a voice and can talk with our actions and buying decisions. Social pressure is incredibly powerful, and it is very easy to forget this. We have the power, we are the problem, and we really can be the solution. We just can’t allow ourselves to forget this.
Most important milestone in 2023
Markus: Everyone talks about the great resignation and how difficult it is to find people. Does a purpose driven start-up like treeconomy also have to face this problem?
Harry: I think we face the opposite. We have a conviction that we can mitigate the most serious effects of climate change, and protect nature at the same time.
I think this belief, and the dynamism of a start-up, means we attract a lot of truly motivated and talented people. Our current team is incredibly talented, and we’re getting job requests a lot still!
Markus: What is your most important milestone in 2023?
Harry: More projects. We have a pipeline of nature restoration projects with a collective total to remove 8+MtCO2e (8 million tonnes). We need to get as many of those projects in motion as possible. We’re targeting 1Mt in 2023.
As part of the EIT Climate-KIC Carbon Removal ClimAccelerator, Munich Re and ERGO are currently supporting five start-ups active in the field of carbon removal, where they are making an important contribution to combating global warming. In a series of interviews with //next columnist Markus Sekulla, he introduced the five young companies with big ambitions: NeoCarbon, Reverse Carbon, Silicate, Treeconomy and Ucaneo Biotech.
The original version of this article was published here.