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Accelerating electrification of everything

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In Your Inbox: Feature on Turntide; Feature on The Daily Catch

🚀 STARTUPS & TECH

Turntide – Accelerating Electrification Of Everything

By: Daniel Kriozere

Electrification built from the motor out. (Image: Turntide)
Electrification built from the motor out. (Image: Turntide)

“It’s been exciting to be in a company that’s really growing fast. Turntide Technologies is blowing up because there’s strong demand for what we do. We’re trying to help solve the world’s biggest problem, climate change, and solve it where not enough attention is focused – energy consumption.”

The electrification of everything has been a growing trend since 2020. Turntide Technologies is one company that is acting and innovating to help accelerate this trend. Eric Meyerson from Turntide digs into their technology, the market, and their impact. Turntide earlier this year announced the close of an $80M Series B, with investment led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Fifth Wall, and FootPrint Coalition, among others. They also recently announced the completion of $225M in convertible note financing, with investments from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Monashee Investment Management LLC, and JLL Spark, bringing Turntide’s total funding to $400M.

What is Turntide Technologies working on?

The problem that Turntide is trying to solve is that the world uses too much energy. Right now, there’s no path to getting to 100% renewable energy without reducing consumption.

Traditional ways of reducing consumption have been through conservation and compromise, and neither of those are going to get us the scale of energy consumption reduction that we need to reach net zero carbon emissions. Meanwhile, we can’t build renewable energy fast enough to actually meet the world’s growing demand. Turntide is specifically looking at energy consumption by systems that run on motors, as most of the world’s electricity is consumed by outdated motor systems.

A team of researchers at Illinois Institute of Technology in the mid-2000s, led by our VP of Motor Design Piyush Desai, decided to take a look at a type of motor tech called switched reluctance technology, which is a different model of motor design. For reference, switched reluctance motors have mostly been used in zero fault tolerant types of environments, like nuclear submarines and keeping power plants cool. The downside to switched reluctance motors was that they were inefficient. Desai’s team’s research was focused on evolving these motors from inefficient but reliable machines into highly efficient, and still-reliable machines. And they did it!

Then in the last year or so, we’ve made a huge investment on the software side. We migrated our brand from Software Motor Company to Turntide, because the plan was always for the motor upgrade to be the starting point for a business to transform the sustainability of its operations. The way we do that is with intelligence – our vision is to replace all the world’s motors with intelligent and optimal motor systems. To do this, we apply a layer of intelligence where today there are just built systems that have on/off switches or run on timers, that’s where energy ends up getting wasted. All of this can be made more intelligent.

We call this our Platform for Sustainable Operations.

How is Turntide thinking about the market and competition?

A lot of companies make motors. Most of the motors are still AC induction motors that are based on a design patented by Nikola Tesla in the 19th century. They have been improved incrementally since then, but it’s still essentially the same motor design. Other companies have designed more efficient motors powered with permanent magnets, but these are full of rare earth metals that are environmentally devastating and geopolitically fraught to produce.

Turntide started with creating an intelligent motor. Turntide is further standing out from the competition by rolling out the Platform for Sustainable Operations. This platform is a way for an organization to 1) have full insight into all the ways that their built environment is consuming energy, and 2) optimize that energy while also optimizing the comfort of the customers, the employees, and the animals (if you’re in agriculture) inside those buildings to maintain everyone’s comfort, health, and productivity and improve their satisfaction.

What sets this Platform apart is that it is an open system, so you can plug in other sustainability technologies. With this platform model, our customers and partners are able to access an entire ecosystem of technologies that are always innovating and developing new sustainability technologies.

We’ve tested a lot of solutions to really figure out what the best applications were. Now that we know how to be successful in HVAC retrofits, we are ready to extend and expand and apply that success to other industries. For example, we recently acquired two companies that make battery and drivetrain technologies so we can apply the Platform to transportation, especially the commercial and industrial vehicles that don’t get the attention of mass-production passenger cars.

How is Turntide thinking about impact and impact metrics?

The last comprehensive IEA report on what’s consuming the world’s electricity was in 2011. The report showed that 47% of the world’s energy was used by motors and 19% by lighting. In the last 10 years, almost everyone has replaced their light bulbs with LEDs. As a result, the amount of energy being used by lighting has been reduced. However, the world has gotten hotter and the demand for air conditioning has gone up, so it’s pretty safe to say that motors are using most of the electricity in buildings now.

People are demanding more modern construction and air conditioning. In particular, in the US we’ve seen heat waves where it gets so hot that air conditioning can overwhelm electrical grids.

Our customers who are retrofitting their systems with our motors are reducing their energy consumption by an average of 64%. For reference, if we replaced all the world’s motors in buildings with Turntide’s Smart Motor System, and we only got half that performance improvement, global carbon emissions would be reduced by roughly 2,300 megatons annually. That’s equivalent to adding seven new Amazon rainforests to the world.

The Platform for Sustainable Operations is going to be the future of the business. Customers will come to Turntide for the motor system and stay for the platform.

Outlook:

The world is changing incredibly fast. Within the last month, Exxon investors forced three new people onto their board because they realized that the company wasn’t focused enough on the end of oil and the transition to renewables. We also saw a major court decision go against Dutch Shell in the EU. Congress passed a new law with massive spending on critical manufacturing, and an unprecedented infrastructure bill is in negotiations right now.

Business needs to change because the climate crisis is the world’s biggest problem – it’s going to cause some major disruption to life and prosperity. We are at the point where climate technology makes business sense – even if we didn’t have this moral imperative to try to save the world. Businesses are starting to realize, that sustainability isn’t just about checking a box, being compliant and issuing a press release. The new sustainability is about ensuring the future survival of businesses.

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🚀 STARTUPS & TECH

Daily Catch - The Hidden Story Behind Our Food

By: Daniel Kriozere

Telling the story behind our food. (Image: Unsplash)
Telling the story behind our food. (Image: Unsplash)

“Phone eats first” is a phrase I jokingly hear when my plate of food is well dressed. But why do people feel the need to do that? Is it to post on Instagram or is it going to be another photo in a camera roll that you won’t look at until you randomly stumble upon it three years later?

The reason is that food tells a story. People want to tell their friends where they went, who they were with, what happened on that night, and reminisce about what might be the best meal they have ever had (this is me with Taqueria Cancun in San Francisco – burrito so good that I can’t un-taste it). But in the world of sustainability and climate, the story of food has an even stronger meaning, especially for those who grow, harvest, and sell.

Scott Nuzum and Chris Rodley, Co-Founders at The Daily Catch, share how they are bringing value to primary food producers through the importance of story-telling.

So in one sentence, what is The Daily Catch?

“Daily Catch is a transformative suite of hardware and software services that aim to bring greater value to primary producers in the agricultural and fisheries sectors by taking their transparent activities and using them to create a business that benefits them by bringer greater value from transparency.”

What was the inspiration behind building your startup?

Scott: “The inspiration behind this, for me, comes from living and eating a standard American diet for much of my youth and not thinking about the consequences of my eating habits on my own health or on the planet. As I got older, I realized many consequences of that behavior were negative. I was clueless about the impact of my dietary habits on this planet. When I started to dive into the issues and started collaborating with Chris, I realized that we can manage resources more effectively through the use of technology and that there is a great incentive for transparency in the food space. For example, fishermen were wary of incorporating transparency and traceability technologies, but if we could invert those technologies to provide a social connection and/or business advantage, then we felt there was great potential to transform the food space by getting the general public to appreciate and understand the consequences of their purchasing habits while simultaneously bringing greater value to food producers who are actually trying to be transparent and produce in a sustainable manner.”

Chris: “So for me, Daily Catch had its genesis, when one of our customers at Snap IT [a Nelson, NZ technology company that designs cameras, tracking systems, and compliance services for fisheries to allow governments to monitor and manage fishing operations and services to the fishermen to make their compliance really easy and low cost] rang us up really upset and wanted to stop working with us. This customer had some problems with the perception of what the technology was being used for. But as we talked, the conversation turned from, ‘I’m leaving’ to, ‘can I actually publish my video to the internet’. It was quite a transformative leap from ‘I don’t believe in this’ to ‘I believe in it so much that I want to actually show the public what is going on’, which, for a fishing company, is a massive deal. There’s a ton of risk in that. So that’s what happened and we began to publish this video. What we found was that when he started broadcasting his operations and dealing directly with his purchasers through interactions that this technology created, he was able to get about $31 per kilogram for the fillets that he was selling, whereas the person on the wharf next to him was getting $1.10 per kilogram on the very same day.

So there’s a lot of value here and we realized this value exists not only for fish, but also for beef, for honey, for cheese, etc. These boutique producers who are doing interesting things can use cameras and IoT to form strong connections back to the customer in a supply chain where the customer has often never met the producer. What we’re doing here isn’t new. In fact, what we’re doing with Daily Catch is really a step back 100 years ago, where you went and you bought your meat from the farmer. We’re trying to do that except digitally and at scale. So the Daily Catch suite of tools allows for producers to ultimately generate more from their food products by being able to differentiate themselves and express the additional value that they create into a supply chain that presently disincentivizes transparency.

Why is story-telling and connecting with your producers important?

Chris: “In the case of the fisherman, his customers are wholesalers, so they’re restaurants. The restaurant wants to buy fresh, and so they can’t be selling rubbish. They want to sell fish that’s local, they want to be able to write on the menu that it was caught locally, they want the waiter to be able to say it was caught this morning, at this location. There’s always a narrative attached to food. And so in these use cases, they really want to be able to express that narrative clearly, be able to back it up, and be able to differentiate themselves from their competitors. We think there’s also value when you’re sitting around your barbecue telling the story of the meat that you’re magnificently cooking on your barbecue. And what if we can tell a really good story? What if we can actually illustrate some of those things that the farmers are collecting back up the chain?

Scott: “The story matters because it is the critical element in getting people to care. We have very short attention spans and live in a world in which it is hard to really know what we’re missing. I think there are a number of converging trends—from consumer preferences around the sourcing of food to generational preferences and willingness to spend a bit more on certain labels like organic and grass-fed—moving in our favor, but we don’t really have the ability to either verify or understand what those labels mean. We are seeing a proliferation of technologies in the traceability space that are not getting as much traction as they should be. We’ve seen dozens of food box subscription services and online artisanal marketplaces sprout up, but again, many of them haven’t seen the sort of traction they should because of perception issues—the public either views these products as lifestyle brands aimed at “true believers” or they believe you need to spend a fortune to get quality good. That’s unfortunate, but it’s the present reality we face.

With Daily Catch, we’re taking a different tack. Food producers are some of the most authentic people in the world with some of the best stories to tell—they are the original creator economy—and we want to help them connect with their 1,000 true fans. Through the conversion of transparency into stories, we are able to put a verifiable and human face to the maker, which makes it easier to build meaningful relationships between food producers and their customers. We’re taking advantage of the network effects provided by the internet to build communities. These relationships start online, but we hope that they become real life as well.

How does The Daily Catch build communities and disrupt large farms by "globally going local"?

Chris: We wouldn’t consider ourselves a marketplace, but if you look at other marketplaces that are selling fish, it’s just fish. Most of the information they have is that it’s from the US, and even then, 30% of fish sales in the US are mislabeled, leading to little trust. So our UVP is about utilizing existing compliance technology and provisioning that upstream to the marketplaces. We see some of these online marketplaces as well as some traditional brick and mortar marketplaces as potential customers, who can use our technology to provide their customers with live video to create more meaningful interactions. And that’s the whole point. The reason a consumer wants to buy a particular producer’s goods is because it’s of higher quality because the producer does x, y, or z differently. In the case of farms, that might mean incorporating regenerative farming strategies, or it might mean that animals are slaughtered on-site rather than being transported for eight hours on a truck—being exposed to higher levels of stress and suffering as a consequence. Understanding the provenance of food—and being able to verify that provenience—matters. Because meat behind a grocery counter often looks the same, but the quality varies considerably. Our tech allows producers the most effective means of clearly communicating why their product stands out.

Scott: “In my view, we’re seeking to promote the highest and best use of local economies so that we can connect the consumer and the producer in the most efficient, but also the most personal, way possible. In time, I view this as occurring in two ways: first, by facilitating matches between producers and consumers based on values. For example, say you want localism, or you want a certain type of fishing gear, or you want to buy from regenerative farms. Daily Catch will be able to match consumers with producers operating according to those preferences. Second, I want Daily Catch to start capturing the true costs of food. As we build out our sensor integrations and get more producers on our platform we’ll get access to more data than we can then use to help us build a better understanding of the externalities that go into food. We’ll be able to show the impacts (or lack thereof) of reduced food miles, no-till practices, etc. on climate and on health and we’ll be able to compare the cost of our producer partners’ products with those of the conventional food space. We’ll be able to communicate to consumers that the positive externalities of doing the right thing are baked in, while in the industrial food system most of the negative externalities are papered over through slick advertising or are subsidized out. Once we start showing people the significant costs underlying food they once perceived as cheap we’ll hopefully start to see changes in consumer behaviors toward favoring practices that are kinder and more sustainable. This might mean purchasing from a producer outside your local food stream, but ultimately the environmental and health costs of doing so pale in comparison to buying reconstituted corn.

How do you quantify the positive externalities of "going local" and are the overall benefits to society?

Scott: “It’s going to take large data sets, and we’ve been having conversations with partners who share our vision and who are building hardware systems that we can bundle as parts of our product offering. Of course, there is tremendous value in simply showcasing producer’s stories through social media marketing simply because it is a unique concept in the food space. But, ultimately, I think the value of having data revealing the true cost of food will serve as an action-forcing mechanism in changing consumer behavior that may also lead to significant policy changes—in terms of how we actually utilize the land in this and other countries, in terms of exposing the costs that many existing farming practices have on the land, and in validating the climate positive impacts of more sustainable agricultural practices.

Chris: “Track and trail is a whole bunch of things. So in the case of fisheries, if the adoption of radical technologies happens at scale, managing these fisheries is easy because all the data is there. So it’s just a matter of utilizing that data to manage the population and what’s coming up to get a real eye on the situation. But what we also see is a societal impact—many small coastal communities rely heavily on fishermen and the fishing industry, but in many places, we’re seeing an increase in consolidation by large factory vessels. The small inshore fishermen are an endangered species. So how do we, through the use of this technology connect the consumer and the producer to allow that fisherman to generate more value from his product by shortening the supply chain and having a direct pathway to market? We can see, I think, a considerable impact, but it flows out of commercial benefit.”

What challenges do you see in the BlueTech and AgTech space, both for your technology and the sector in general?

Chris: “Traditionally, the AgTech and BlueTech spaces have not been well funded by traditional capital sources like VC and Angel groups. So when you look at particularly fisheries technology, the net was a big innovation, but that was quite a long time ago, and there hasn’t been too much change since. You could argue that diesel was quite a big change because you can go deeper into the ocean, but what we’re talking about here is an industry where there’s been little or no innovation, but rather a focus on efficiency gains. So because of that, there hasn’t been an ecosystem where you can bring these ideas that I think actually are transformative. With Daily Catch, we aim to flip that narrative on its head. We want to serve as a platform for truly transformative change in the food space.

Outlook

The push for transparency is in full force across all industries, especially when it comes to animals and farming practices. Knowing where your food came from, how fresh it is, who is sourcing it, what their diet is, how organic/natural is it, etc. has become vital information for a growing swathe of eco and ethically-conscious consumers.

This combined with social media can make for rapid changes in consumer trends as well as how producers operate and produce food. More importantly, the value that Daily Catch mentions can be amplified by promoting its value through creative outlets like TikTok, Instagram, and live and in-person. Effectively bringing education to the masses by leveraging technology could spur a “climate education sector” that could contribute to significant carbon reduction by promoting climate positive brands and practices.

With the rise of alternative proteins as well, FoodTech is at a focal point in growth, and understanding the basic information of where it comes from and how it’s grown/caught can make a huge difference in business providing for daily consumers.

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Editors: Swarnav S Pujari, Daniel Kriozere Writers: Matthew Morris

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