Our food chains are notorious for being not-exactly-amazing for the amount of carbon they crank into the atmosphere. Root Global just raised a round of funding in a bid to become what it calls the “carbon OS” for the food industry. It builds software to help companies up and down the food value chain get to zero emissions.
Food production is complex when it comes to climate change; waste is rife, and greenhouse gas emissions from food production are significant. Estimates in this sector vary wildly. For example, the EPA reports 11% of U.S. greenhouse emissions. Other estimates range from around 19% globally, to up to 30%, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
Root’s software platform enables manufacturers, food processors and retail in the food and beverage sector to calculate carbon scores and guide business decisions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
“Climate effort is a value chain effort. We help all stakeholders in the food industry to speak the same carbon language, share activity data in the same format and calculate carbon scores using the same methodology,” Eric Oancea, co-founder at Root, said in an interview with TechCrunch. “Today, our food system emits 16.5 billion tons of carbon equivalents — almost every third ton going out into the atmosphere. With Root we build the decision-making infrastructure to get to zero.”
A large part of the problem is the large food conglomerates, Oancea claims.
“[Food producers] are just struggling to understand how to deal with emissions. They may know how to source cocoa beans and they know how to produce chocolate, but they have no clue how to track their emissions and they don’t know how to then make decisions in a way that actually brings down [carbon emissions],” says Oancea, explaining how he is excited about consumers putting pressure on the companies they buy from. “There is work happening on product labeling so consumers can understand what they are consuming. This will come, and it will probably be mandatory at the end of 2024.”
For product labeling to even be possible, the producers need to know what the full life cycle carbon emissions of a product is. That’s the gap Root is hoping to fill.
“I think companies are moving a lot faster than regulations at this point. EU regulations are essentially just following the early movers. The other thing that happened is that companies are setting themselves publicly disclosed targets, usually about science-based initiatives,” says Oancea. “For instance, if you look at the curve of adoption of these targets, they had been tripling the last two years. Suddenly, you have an exponential increase of the companies that are reporting data. But now we see SMEs and B2C brands setting targets like ‘by 2030, I need to reduce my scope three emissions by 45%.’ Knowing how they do that is something that they simply struggle with. They released billion-dollar budgets. Now they need to find where to invest this money inside their supply chains, where 95% of their footprint comes from, to actually then reduce their carbon footprint.”
Project A led the $2.6 million pre-seed financing round, with participation from Nucleus and several angel investors with experience in company-building and the food and beverage industry.