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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up July 23, 2021

Lux Research
July 23, 2021

Every day our researchers read through the top innovation headlines and provide their expert opinions on important developments and industry news. Our analysts then evaluate news based on potential importance ranking the developments from Truly Disruptive to Ignore.

On Fridays we highlight our Lux Take on the top news for the week. Check out our thoughts on the latest emerging technology and innovation news for the past week below. 

Equilibrium Capital recognizes controlled environment agriculture (CEA) as a billion-dollar opportunity

Laura Krishfield, Research Associate, Lux ResearchLaura Krishfield, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"Equilibrium Capital Group has closed a second fund dedicated toward development of CEA, raising $1.02 billion in total. The new fund, called the Controlled Environment Foods Fund II (CEFF II), exceeds the goal of $500 million and follows an original round (CEFF) of $336 million that closed in April 2019. Equilibrium intends to invest in high-tech greenhouses and indoor farms in North America, with lettuce and tomatoes as key crops. The deals will range between $10 million and $125 million. Fundraising is a key differentiator for "successful" CEA companies, as scale-up of facilities requires significant investment. That said, compnies are encouraged to seek partnerships with developers as funding in CEA reaches unprecedented amounts."

Carbon reduction-focused Virya supports expansion of Azotic's microbial nitrogen fixation solutions 

Jamie Grippi, Senior Research Associate, Lux Research

Jamie Grippi, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"Azotic's Envita and N-Fix leverage the natural ability of Gluconacetobacter to colonize a range of plant species and fix nitrogen for crop nutrition. With the liquid formulated products – and dry formulations and seed treatments under development – Azotic claims similar nitrogen reductions to Pivot without applying genetic modification to improve performance. Virya's funding, although undisclosed, enables sales expansion in North America and penetration into Asia before competitors via strategic licensing and distribution agreements. Companies, if large enough, the funding places Azotic in the lead among N-fixation developers for scale. The nonmodified nature of the solution offers earlier expansion outside of GMO-supportive North America.

LanzaTech and Lululemon partner up to develop world's first polyester from recycled carbon emissions

Tiffany Hua, Senior Research Associate, Lux ResearchTiffany Hua, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"Previously, LanzaTech and India Glycols Limited (IGL) made headlines for the first laundry capsule made from carbon emissions with Unilever. Now, the two have their eyes locked on the first polyester made from CO2 capture. LanzaTech will produce ethanol from waste emissions using its microbial conversion technology and work with IGL and Far Eastern New Century to convert ethanol to polyester. While the company is equipped with strong partnerships, timelines are unclear, and cost premiums are expected. Companies should closely monitor LanzaTech, as it is also developing a direct CO2-to-MEG pathway that may be more cost-competitive. Outside of apparel, this work is important for other industries using PET, including beverage and packaging.

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Pivot raises $430 million as it reaches 1 million acres of farmland

Joshua Haslun, Ph.D., Research Director, Lux Research

Joshua Haslun, Ph.D., Research Director
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive

"Led by DCVC and Temasek and joined by 10 other previous participants, the Series D catapults Pivot back into the lead for biological nitrogen fixation innovations following Azotic's funding and international expansion plans last week. Pivot will look to capture as much of the North American market as possible – it currently covers around 1% of the U.S. corn market – but will add international opportunities and build out wheat and sorghum. Expect Latin America and Asia to be core parts of those plans. Pivot claims improved performance of product iterations from 20 lb to 40 lb per acre of nitrogen replaced. At $0.40/lb, that equates to $16 per acre and 50% N reduction. Companies, Pivot, and others now have legs for global penetration."

Mantra Health supports tough mental health conditions for college students, highlighting a market opportunity for a younger crowd

Danielle Bradnan, Analyst at Lux Research

Danielle Bradnan, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Mantra Health is accomplishing two things: diving into deeper mental health waters than the typical anxiety and depression, and deepening its presence in college support. The first accomplishment is an important step because most digital mental health services shy away from more severe mental health conditions, despite a high need for support. The second accomplishment is important for all digital health tools because by demonstrating efficacy to younger markets is likely to lead to greater adoption of these tools as those markets grow. Currently, one of the challenges for digital tools is a consumer understanding of value, and by exposing younger demographics to these tools, Mantra Health is paving the way for greater adoption."

Schneider Electric and Kewaunee form strategic alliance to work on smart labs

Akshay Chaudhari, Ph.D., Analyst, Lux Research

Akshay Chaudhari, Ph.D., Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Kewaunee International designs and manufacture laboratory instruments for the healthcare sector and plans to deploy Schneider's EcoStruxure platform for lab automation. Automation of manufacturing facilities is a common practice; lab automation has seen uptake due to the need for rapid development of medicines, vaccines, and molecules. Several other companies have been active in the lab automation space targeting the pharma and life sciences industry (for example, Thermo Fisher Scientific). Companies should recognize the trend toward lab automation and expect more collaborations and partnerships in the coming years."

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Neometals announces Li-ion battery recycling demo plant

Shishir Jairam, Research Associate, Lux Research

Shishir Jairam, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Following the announcement of its spinoff for nickel sulfide operations in Australia, Neometals formed this JV with SMS Group to commission a Li-ion battery (LIB) recycling demonstration plant in Germany. Neometals already claimed to develop a sustainable process targeting end-of-life LIB and plans to recover materials like lithium cobalt oxide and nickel with this plant. The initial phase will involve shredding, though it plans to use hydrometallurgy at a later stage. With the disposal of spent batteries becoming a challenge, companies interested in this development should note that the JV is indicative of a slowly maturing recycling industry, but dreams of a circular economy won't be realized until hydrometallurgy successfully scales.

Svante receives $20 million investment from government of Canada to scale manufacturing in North America

Holly Havel, Senior Research Associate, Lux ResearchHolly Havel, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Following Svante's $75 million Series D funding round in February, the company has received an additional $20 million investment from the government of Canada to support ongoing commercialization efforts. The funding comes from the Strategic Innovation Fund's Net Zero Accelerator and will help Svante build commercial-scale manufacturing operations in Vancouver, British Columbia, for its structured absorbents. The manufacturing plant's annual capacity is expected to produce enough sorbents to capture up to 3 million MT per year of CO2. With several large-scale projects in the pipeline in the U.S., scaling its local supply chain will be important for Svante as it seeks commercial validation and scales commercial deployments in North America." 

Solar-powered IoT sensors address sustainability in logistics

Lisheng Gao, Ph.D., Analyst, Lux Research Lisheng Gao, Ph.D., Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Nexxiot has partnered with TransRail Innovation Group to integrate sensors into Nexxiot's solar-powered modular hardware and cloud-based platforms. The partnership aims to leverage new sensor technologies and IoT platforms to further improve safety, reliability, and asset utilization for rail cargo systems. This move helps logistic companies improve their sustainability from two perspectives. First, improving cargo utilization efficiency helps reduce energy consumption, thus directly reducing the carbon footprint in logistics. Second, using solar-powered modules indirectly minimizes the carbon footprint by eliminating the need for replacing batteries. Companies should consider leveraging sensor technologies to attain sustainable roadmaps."

Polish-Japanese smart grid project demonstrates competitive routes to integrating wind power within Polish grid

Patricia Seoane da Silva, Senior Research Associate, Lux ResearchPatricia Seoane da Silva, Senior Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"This project was a collaboration between the Polish and Japanese governments and was operational since 2020. Other partners involved in the project included Hitachi, Showa Denko Materials, and various energy utilities based in Poland. Ultimately, the project focused on a 24 MW wind energy farm located in northern Poland and evaluated optimal methods to integrate variable wind power into the grid, including installing energy storage and developing protocols to ensure that transmission lines are not overloaded and remain resilient in the event of accidents affecting the grid. This project signals growing interest in renewable power integration, which will become increasingly relevant as more economies subscribe to carbon neutrality." 

Did you miss last week's news round-up? Check out the blog here. Make sure you never miss a headline by subscribing to our newsletter.

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