Microsoft founder Bill Gates has made his first investment in an Australian startup, backing Perth-based climate tech venture Rumin8 in a US$12 million (A$17m) second phase of its Seed round.
The raise was led by the Gates-founded VC firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), with participation from fellow billionaires Andrew and Nicola Forrest via their agri-food business Harvest Road Group. Funds from both seed rounds totalled around A$25 million.
The Gates investment came as the tech elder visited Australia, discussing issues such as climate change with prime minister Anthony Albanese on the weekend.
Existing investors in Rumin8 include Australian-based Aware Super Sentient WA Growth Fund and US.based Prelude Ventures, which both chipped in on the phase 2 seed round.
Rumin8 has set out to reduce methane emissions in agriculture using naturally occurring compounds added to livestock feed. It’s following a similar path to the CSIRO spin out FutureFeed, which is also backed by Harvest Road, and is using seaweed to cut methane. But Rumin8 is producing its seaweed like solution in the lab, rather than having to produce more seaweed to supply farmers.
The funding will be used for commercial trials in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and the USA, product brand development, and pilot manufacturing plant development as Rumin8 moves towards commercialisation of its feed additives.
Managing Director David Messina said Rumin8 had received considerable support from climate funds, and the Phase 2 seed round closed over-subscribed.
“We have been very pleased with the reception we have received from climate impact funds around the world,” he said.
“Our laboratory results continue to yield excellent results, our animal trials are reflecting the laboratory results, and the financial modelling we are undertaking is indicating we will be able to supply our products at a commercial price point.
“Prior to the Phase 2 seed funding round, we were progressing a number of key work streams sequentially. Now we have the resources to progress them in parallel, speeding up the road to commercialisation.”
Harvest Road Group CEO Paul Slaughter said Rumin8 complements the group’s other investments in reducing the impact of agriculture on climate change.
“We are actively seeking solutions to reduce methane emissions in livestock supply chains, with Harvest Road supporting multiple emerging technologies focussed on methane reduction in ruminant animals,” he said.
“Feed additives are an important pillar in our strategy to reduce our carbon footprint and support our ambition to help solve the global methane emissions challenge.”
Carmichael Roberts from BEV said the demand for sustainable protein has never been more apparent, which is why the VC firm is interested in cutting methane emissions.
“Rumin8 offers a low cost, scalable toolbox that has already proven to be effective in reducing emissions,” he said.
“Our team will support Rumin8 in working closely with farmers to expand the reach of this solution globally.”