Saturday, September 3, 2022

Gates funds “green” milk

Billionaire Bill Gates’ investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is leading a $12 million investment in Neutral Foods which tracks greenhouse gases from milk production.

Other investors in Neutral Foods include Mark Cuban, National Basketball Association stars LeBron James and Kevin Love, Tobias Harris, and musicians John Legend and Questlove.

Neutral Foods buys carbon credits to compensate for the milk-production emissions. 

Breakthrough Energy Ventures has segmented global emissions into five categories, and agriculture is the third worst offender, responsible for 19 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, behind manufacturing (31 per cent) and electricity (27 per cent), but ahead of transportation (16 per cent) and buildings (seven per cent).

Neutral Foods milk is in about 2,000 grocery stores and it’s planning to expand into butter, and eventually meat.

“It’s clear that consumers are hungry for sustainable, climate-forward options and they’re reflecting that in their purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to buying food and beverages,” Carmichael Roberts, one half of the investing committee at Bill Gates’ investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, told CNBC television.

Neutral Foods measures the carbon emissions of the entire lifecycle of its products and purchases carbon offsets for the measured emissions, Ann Radil, the Head of Carbon Reduction at Neutral Foods, told CNBC.

Carbon credits are permits that businesses buy to certify greenhouse gasses have been removed from the atmosphere. While not all carbon credits are reliably policed, Neutral Foods says it uses only offsets verified by Climate Action Reserve which it says are quite strict. Its offsets are “real, additional, permanent, verifiable, and enforceable,” said Lauren Brown, senior manager of carbon reduction data and analytics for Neutral Foods.

Long-term, the company’s plan is to work with farms to reduce their greenhouse emissions directly. Currently, Neutral Foods has eight distinct projects underway at farms it works with and 30 projects in some phase of development, Radil told CNBC.

Those projects include changing what cows eat and changing how cow manure is managed.

Separating and composting manure “alone can reduce manure-related GHG emissions such as methane and nitrous oxide by 19 to 50 percent,” Radil told CNBC. 

Also, Neutral Foods is working with farms to change the way they plant things on the farm to improve the amount of carbon that gets absorbed by the soil.