Rewilding: Startup Stories That Restore Our World

By

button_lee en español

Greentech will be the salvation of our world. Through initiatives that limit our impact on the environment, humans can minimize continued damage to our home – our source of survival. However, through initiatives that return areas of the world to their original state, we might even counteract continued industrial damage by humans and recover some of nature’s former state.

What Does Rewilding Mean?

In simple terms, rewilding is environmental restoration. In fact, rewilding encompasses more than just environmental restoration – it's a concept that revolves around revitalizing ecosystems and coexisting harmoniously with nature. The practice aims to reverse damage caused by human activities like construction and urbanization, creating a sustainable balance between human needs and the health of our planet.

If rewilding is essential, why weren’t we doing it before? In short, we experienced a shift in perspective of the environment’s value to our own survival. 

Previously, we prioritized development over our environment's health. However, as we understand the far-reaching consequences of ecological imbalance, we now recognize the urgency to repair and rejuvenate the natural world.

An Informed Approach to Restoring Our World

Today, we possess the knowledge and technology to not only mitigate harm but also undo some of the damage inflicted upon ecosystems. This shift stems from scientific insights and a broader understanding of the intricate relationships that sustain life on Earth.

The reasons that entities might decide to get involved in climate action can be summarized in three types. Nativas, biodiversity specialists and VilCap alumni, categorizes them into three Cs:

  • Conscience: Companies that share a desire to work actively on climate action.
  • Coercion: Companies that, through legal obligations or market demand, decide to get involved in climate action.
  • Commercial: Companies that are neither aware nor have obligations to participate, but see a business opportunity in the climate crisis.

Today, the responsibility of rewilding, recovering, and restoring ecosystems is gathering no moss. It is shared by dedicated organizations and innovative startups worldwide. Particularly, entrepreneurship presents one of the most innovative and quick-to-adapt solutions. Let's explore the efforts of a few such startup founders in Latin America.

Reforestation by Plantverd: Sowing Seeds of Transformation

PlantVerd, a Brazilian startup, specializes in the restoration of degraded areas. They intertwine new technologies with ecosystem revival and community upliftment. By reforesting both state-owned and private land, PlantVerd aligns their efforts with Brazilian environmental regulations, promoting ecological health while aiding compliance.

Each founder, Antonio Borges in Law, Danilo Taba in Agronomy, and José Reinaldo in Environmental Engineering, developed essential skills in order to lead PlantVerd’s initiatives. They initiated their careers in prominent corporations and environmental consultancy.

Antônio Borges, Executive Director at PlantVerd, told us where PlatVerd began: “The founders of PlantVerd, raised in small towns and rural areas, imbued a respect for nature during their childhood. We grasped the importance of preserving trees around springs to ensure a stable water supply.”

“We saw a disparity between urban and rural perspectives,” continues Borges. “The labor and sacrifices of those in the countryside often went unnoticed by city dwellers.” This, no doubt, contributed to the startup founders’ move to democratize greentech because on top of being a greentech company, PlantVerd is also addressing societal issues: By employing individuals from marginalized backgrounds, such as former inmates and those with no professional experience, the startup founders are building a metaphorical army to participate in reforestation efforts, transforming these people into contributors to solutions and even more valuable members of society.

From Brazil across the continent to Argentina, more startup stories tell us the enormous steps that Latin American companies are taking to benefit the entire world with regeneration and rewilding initiatives:

Nativas Puts the Onus on Companies: Regeneration Through Innovation

Originating in Argentina, Nativas promotes ecosystem regeneration projects to heal the land, air, and water. “When the potential of Latin America to be a key actor in climate change became clear to me, I decided to get involved, to dedicate my life to this mission and build a team around it,” shared Gaspar Mac, cofounder and CEO at Nativas.

Nativas’ solution allows companies to assess regeneration’s benefits, as well as provide traceability and transparency to their carbon and water compensation. “It’s known that expanding biodiversity will heal the land, air, and water,” continues Mac. “The challenge we’re facing with rewilding, however, is financing. Channeling funds toward the regeneration of ecosystems requires advanced connection systems that link companies with regeneration projects.”

Uniquely, Nativas champions ecosystem regeneration utilizing cutting-edge technology like Blockchain. Their platform offers a unique approach – companies can assess the benefits of their regeneration efforts, ensuring transparency and traceability for carbon and water compensation. This innovative initiative fosters corporate accountability for environmental impact.

What Does Blockchain Have to Do With Greentech?

The technology is based on Blockchain, not because the company was aiming to create a cryptocurrency, but because they knew they had to generate an asset that company leaders could grasp. It needed to be a financial lever that accountants could manage and that is traceable. This was the best way for Nativas to demonstrate how it is genuinely a sustainable financial mechanism for companies.

Following an exhaustive analysis of the market that wanted traceability, transparency, and a way to represent ecosystem services in climate assets, Nativas decided that Blockchain was the tool to best promote their sustainability strategies, enabling them to push investment in rewilding and regeneration projects. Much of their work centers on planting native trees, verifying the impact of such, and then creating climate assets that allow companies to offset their footprint – be it carbon, water, or biodiversity.

“We analyze a company’s sustainability reports, the demands of the markets to which they report, their carbon and water footprints, their reduction plans, and based on this data, we design and develop projects to not only neutralize them, but to generate a positive environmental impact,” says Mac.

While Nativas boosts financing for biodiversity, rewilding, and recouping projects from Argentina, a neighboring country is tackling a very different greentech concern:

Río Azul’s Startup Story: Unmuddying the Waters for Our Future

Hailing from Uruguay, Río Azul addresses water pollution concerns by designing and constructing sustainable engineering systems. These systems effectively treat water waste, tackling both environmental and sanitary challenges prevalent in Latin America. Their endeavor demonstrates a commitment to healthier ecosystems and communities.

Marcelo Argenzio, CEO of Río Azul, speaks of resource management in his country:

“Uruguay is the ideal case study for resource management in Latin America. While 60% of our population enjoys sanitation access, only  10% of localities do so. Population density versus investment levels dictates service provision, often sidelining small communities.”

Argenzio explains the situation that contributed to Río Azul’s reach: Uruguay, rich in water sources, faced severe droughts in 2022 and 2023, which hindered reservoir refilling, causing water scarcity for the capital city. The lack of resource reuse and circularity accentuated the problem, and as we all know – capital cities being impacted will greatly speed up authorities’ response to geographical inequalities.

Water Reclaim for Greener Gardens by Río Azul

“Río Azul's innovative green systems offer a triple impact solution,” explains Argenzio. “Engineered wetlands designed by Río Azul offer a cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and health-risk-reducing approach to sanitation coverage in Latin America."

Today, motivations to collaborate with Río Azul are mounting: Compliance with evolving regulations and a sense of conscience are driving private-sector projects that involve Río Azul. “Increasingly, laws in Uruguay demand proper wastewater treatment, and organizations advocate for sustainable systems.”

To exemplify the value of Río Azul’s reach for our youngest generation, Río Azul addressed a pressing issue in a rural Uruguayan agricultural school. Its international, zero-cost, sustainable solution tackled overflowing sanitation facilities, environmental incongruence, and health risks. This enriched both education and wellbeing for pupils, staff, and the school itself.

Innovation for Ecosystem Restoration: Startup Stories in LatAm 

An initiative led by Village Capital, with support from Moody’s Foundation, is a beacon of propel startups like PlantVerd, Nativas, and Río Azul. On top of these three champions of restoring and rewilding, Village Capital supported seven startups through this year’s program alongside Moody’s in Latin America. 

By providing tailored workshops and guidance, the accelerator empowers these innovators to improve their impactful solutions. This initiative amplifies greentech, promotes the rewilding movement, and accelerates the restoration of our planet's vitality. PlantVerd, Nativas, and Ríio Azul were top-ranked by their peers. The participant startups evaluated each other through an investor lens, using eight specific investment criteria that leverage Village Capital’s venture investment levels and peer-selected methodology.  

Argenzio of Río Azul explains: “We have further professionalized our proposal based on the exchange we receive in the interaction with peers. The program provided us with mentorship where certain strong and weak points were marked for us to be able to focus, improve, or discard. We have opened our minds to thinking at a regional level, looking for new ways to sustainably scale.”

As the world evolves, embracing the significance of rewilding, these ventures signify the transition toward a more balanced coexistence with nature. Through their unwavering dedication, innovative strategies, and technological prowess, startup stories like those of Río Azul, Nativas, and Plantverd are inspiring a future where ecological health flourishes alongside human progress.

Related Posts