Tag Archives: startups

Investing: 2014 Was an Impactful Year

Sustainable America's 2014 Investments

We’re excited about the four investments we made in 2014, and hope that over time, these companies contribute to improving life for all of us. In keeping with our overall mission, our investments were made in companies that seek to reduce oil used in transportation, repurpose food waste and strengthen local agriculture. Here’s a rundown of these four sustainable startups poised for growth.

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Fair Food Fund: Closing the Farm-to-Table Gap

farmer harvesting sweet potatoes

Photo: USDA via Fickr

A new crop of businesses is developing that utilizes the food local farms produce, whether they are processing it for resale or using it as ingredients to produce new products. The Fair Food Fund, a new program from Fair Food Network, is hoping to help these businesses thrive by providing financing and business support for this often overlooked sector of the burgeoning local food system. We talked to its program director, Alex Linkow, to learn more about how the Fair Food Fund works and why it’s important to support the “middleman.”

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EcoScraps: Sowing Success from Wasted Food

EcoScraps organic gardening products are sold at major garden retailers throughout the country

EcoScraps organic gardening products are sold at major garden centers like Home Depot, Target, Walmart and Lowe’s.

If you’ve been keeping up with Sustainable America, you know that we’re on a mission to divert food waste from landfills and repurpose it into sustainable, value-added products like compost. We’re happy to report that we’ve closed our first compost-related investment in an exciting young company that does just that: EcoScraps. The Utah-based business collects fruit and vegetable scraps from grocery stores and wholesale produce providers and turns it into nutrient-rich, organic garden products like compost, potting mix and natural fertilizer. The EcoScraps line is sold in some of the same stores that supply the scraps, creating a tidy, full-circle process.

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A Better Way to Check Tire Pressure

RightPSI Tire Pressure Gauge

RightPSI lets you know if your tire pressure is low at a glance.

How often do you check your car’s tire pressure? Do you even know how often you should check your tire pressure? It’s not a difficult task, but it’s not convenient, either. You have to find your gauge, keep track of four tiny caps, get your hands dirty, wrestle with an air hose. Is it all worth it? Well, yes. And a new product called RightPSI will make the task much easier.

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Investing in a Sustainable Future

Sustainable America

If you’ve been following Sustainable America’s evolution over the last two years, you know that part of our philosophy is that investing in entrepreneurs and startups is an effective way to help increase the sustainability of our food and fuel systems. What you might not know is how we do it, and what some of our criteria are for making these investments.

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Vecarius: Taking the Heat…and Using It

Vecarius’s thermoelectric generator system improves the energy efficiency of vehicles ranging from light-duty vehicles produced by vehicle manufacturers to heavy-duty vehicles used by vehicle owners and operators of vehicle fleets. Photo Credit: RyanP77 via Compfight cc

Our global oil system is operating at near capacity—97 percent—which just isn’t sustainable. Because 70% of oil consumption in the U.S. is used for ground transportation, reducing the amount of gas used by vehicles is key to heading off an impending crisis. Boston-based Vecarius, which recently won the 2013 Sustainable America/Greentown Labs Fellowship, is working to tackle this problem by turning vehicles’ exhaust waste heat into energy, technology that can reduce fuel usage in vehicles by 5 to 10 percent. We talked to CEO Steven Casey to learn more about his innovative product.

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Vecarius Wins Sustainable America/Greentown Labs Fellowship

Boston skyline

Photo Credit: Sunset Noir via Compfight cc

We’re thrilled to announce the winner of the 2013 Sustainable America/Greentown Labs Fellowship. Vecarius, a vehicle waste-heat recovery company based in Boston, was chosen from a field of nine finalists who pitched their business ideas to a room of 60 entrepreneurs, investors, engineers, and students at a networking event Thursday at Greentown Labs in Somerville, Mass.

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Finalists Announced for Sustainable America/Greentown Labs Fellowship

Boston skyline

Photo Credit: Sunset Noir via Compfight cc

The applications are in for our new fellowship program, and we’re excited by all the innovative startups that applied. We’ve narrowed the applicant pool down to nine exciting ventures engaged in trying to solve a number of problems in agriculture and transportation via sustainable solutions.

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Ag Innovations: Robotic Bug Trackers

Spensa Technologies' Z-Trap in the field

Photo: Johnny Park

Here’s a head-scratching statistic: In 2010, crop growers in the United States lost $20 billion a year due to insect damage despite spending $4.5 billion on pesticide applications. It turns out that agricultural pest management is a surprisingly inefficient system that involves sticky traps, updating spreadsheets, and a lot of legwork.

An Indiana-based startup, has come up with a way to save growers legwork, hassle, and money—and reduce the amount of pesticides sprayed on crops—by automating the insect-tracking process. We spoke with Kim Nicholson, Spensa Technologies’ vice president of business development, to learn more about the product and the company.

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And the Winners Are…

IdeaFestival

The winners were announced at IdeaFestival in Louisville.

The results are in from the Village Capital VentureWell startup accelerator program that took place in Louisville this summer. Two innovative ventures were selected by their peers to receive $50,000 to continue growing their young companies.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.


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