Investment Notes: Jupiter Ionics

There is significant and growing pressure on the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions intensity of agricultural production, given ag’s footprint of nearly 14% of global GHG emissions. The production and use of conventional ammonia-based nitrogen fertilizers, in particular, is a major contributor. Today, the Haber-Boch process is used to produce ammonia at industrial scale; however, this process is energy intensive and not well suited to renewable energy sources. 

Introducing our 8th investment: Jupiter Ionics - green ammonia technology

Our 8th investment, Jupiter Ionics, is developing a novel method for carbon-neutral production of ammonia from air, water, and solar energy, unlocking much needed decarbonization solutions for the $70B/yr ammonia production industry which generates approximately 2% of global GHG emissions.

Jupiter Ionics’ method uses an electrolytic cell for the production of ammonia which is compatible with (intermittent) renewable power and can operate in a modular, distributed, and scalable way. This creates the possibility for distributed, small-scale, localized production of ammonia (and derivatives) using renewable energy at an economically feasible scale.

We participated in Jupiter Ionics’ AUD 2.5M seed round, alongside several local Australian angel investors with experience in the food and clean energy sectors.

A big impact vision: a zero-carbon economy fueled by ammonia

Jupiter Ionics imagines the emergence of an entire Ammonia Economy that could reach many different industry sectors. This is a large, ambitious vision involving major technological and societal shifts, and full of promise for a future free of fossil fuels.

image source: A Roadmap to the Ammonia Economy - Joule - June 2020

In that future, green ammonia can play a key role in decarbonizing the energy sector as part of the shift to a hydrogen-based economy. It is considered a leading candidate to replace heavy fuel oil as part of the decarbonization of international shipping, and also provides a favorable carrier mechanism to transport “liquified” renewable energy between continents..

Whilst this long-term objective may still be decades away, there is much to be done in transitioning agriculture away from emissions-intensive inputs in the near term. This is the first challenge that the team at Jupiter Ionics is taking on.

Currently, 180 million tonnes of ammonia are produced each year, representing a $70b market that is essential to global food security. However, the over-application of nitrogen is also a source of significant environmental harm, both in terms of emissions, and from the pollution of waterways caused by nitrogen run-off and leaching. By enabling the precise, modular, distributed production of zero-carbon liquid fertilizers, Jupiter Ionics is creating solutions that scale the food system in a sustainable, profitable and climate-resilient way.

Why we love it: zero-carbon inputs for digitally native agriculture

Deep technology

This is deep technology solving large and difficult problems. Jupiter Ionics is commercializing patented technology first invented by Prof Doug Macfarlane and Dr Alexandr Simonov and their team at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Their technology uses an electrochemical process to produce ammonia by reducing nitrogen extracted from the air and combining it with hydrogen extracted from water, with power provided by renewable electricity. The team are internationally recognized as being on the cutting edge of electrochemical ammonia technology, as reflected in their recent publication in the journal Science

Jupiter Ionics is led by Dr Charlie Day, an experienced technology commercialization executive with a DPhil in Engineering Science from Oxford University and a deep experience in developing a vibrant and robust innovation ecosystem across the whole Australian continent. Prof Doug Macfarlane, the co-inventor of the technology, serves as the CSO.

Unlock codes for impact at scale

Agriculture is currently facing a triad of challenges. The food production system has to continue to scale in the face of an increasingly variable climate. At the same time, the GHG emissions of the sector have to lower in line with science-based targets to avert greater climate impact. As if this wasn’t enough, agriculture can also be a provider of nature-based solutions to help other parts of the economy to decarbonize sooner.

Jupiter Ionics sits at the heart of several key investment themes. The transition to lower input intensity production, unlocked by a combination of technological innovation, democratized infrastructure, and digital precision. Producing site-specific, renewably-powered inputs on demand via distributed infrastructure will unlock higher levels of carbon-neutral and high-efficiency production.

By producing fertilizer as required, far greater levels of efficiency will be achieved for growers and their downstream supply chains. When applied in liquid form, via optimized and increasingly automated systems, upstream emissions and downstream environmental impacts can be reduced significantly.

The massive task of decarbonizing our economy needs solutions like Jupiter Ionics and we’re looking forward to supporting the team on this important and exciting journey.

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