VC-backed biocarbon producer to target grain

The company had targeted speciality crops and turf, but is developing a biochar-based soil treatment aimed at large-scale grain producers.

Cool Planet, a North Bridge Capital-backed company that sells a biochar-based soil treatment is preparing a formula for major grain operations.

The company started two years ago by targeting turf and speciality crops, which have higher margins.

“It makes sense to start with higher value crops while you’re working on best application methods for production agriculture,” Wes Bolsen, the company’s head of global business development, adding that Cool Planet hopes to have a product optimised for grains as soon as 2017.

The Cool Terra treatment is made from biochar, a biofuel byproduct. The company call its product “biocarbon”, saying helps the soil’s ability to regulate water and nutrition and beneficial micro-organisms detoxify the soil.

The soil treatment was initially intended as a compliment to its renewable biofuels business, creating fuel from non-food plant material, although a collapse in fuel prices has been one factor in ensuring the Cool Terra project has quickly grown larger.

The company is now focusing on expanding distribution through traditional agricultural channels, through partnerships with family-owned agri, food and distribution companies JR Simplot and Georgia-based Triangle Chemical Company, which between them have strong distribution networks in the Eastern and Western US.

“You’re not going to break into the market by going door to door to different farmers. You need to go through an established distributor,” said Bolsen.

In February, North Bridge Capital Partners led a $9 million raise for Cool Planet to develop and commercialise its Cool Terra soil product. Other backers included Google Ventures, BP and Energy Technology Ventures, which is a partnership between GE, ConocoPhillips, and NRG Energy.

North Bridge Venture Partners is an early-stage venture capital investor focused on communications, digital media, healthcare, infrastructure, materials and software. The company is currently investing from its $527 million Fund VII, according to PEI Research & Analytics. North Bridge has invested in each of Cool Planet’s previous funding rounds. Founder Ed Anderson is a member of Cool Planet’s board of directors.