Wildfires are getting worse. Check out the pitch deck that landed climate startup Vibrant Planet $15 million from backers like Microsoft to use AI to manage the risk.
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- Climate startup Vibrant Planet wants to help landowners manage wildfire risk.
- The startup has raised $15 million from Ecosystem Integrity Fund, with participation from Microsoft.
- Check out the 22-slide pitch deck it used to raise the Series A.
A California-based startup using artificial intelligence and machine learning for land management and climate-risk analysis has raised $15 million in Series A funding.
Vibrant Planet, which was founded in 2020, offers a data platform to help landowners figure out how to restore ecosystems and manage against the risk of wildfires.
Wildfires have long devastated communities around the world but increasing global temperatures have added fuel to the flame. Record heat in Europe stoked blazes; Canada experienced its worst wildfire season on record while Chile suffered its second. Lahaina, Maui was also engulfed in flames this summer.
Along with rising temperatures, poor land planning and risk mitigation strategies are also to blame for raging wildfires, according to Vibrant Planet CEO Allison Wolff. Controlled or “good” fire could be one of the answers, she said. Controlled fire is a planned conflagration that can, for example, reduce dead leaves and limbs and prevent a wildfire from raging out of control.
Vibrant Planet maps forests in 3D, using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data and satellite data to generate recommendations based on priority, economical and ecological return, and risk-mitigation potential. Its management suggestions could include controlled fire, rewilding, or forest thinning, which also aids wildfire protection.
“In about 53% of land on Earth, ecosystems are fire adapted,” added Wolff. “That means that’s how they cycle carbon, how they cycled nutrients, it’s how they regenerate. In a lot of coniferous forests worldwide, they only regenerate, they only reseed, when a fire rolls through and unlocks the seed from the pine cone – they’re totally adapted for fire.”
The issue today is that many historic forests were cut down for roads and buildings, while the use of fire for management fell out of favour. The result is trees that have grown back close together, often dominated by different species that are less fire adapted, Wolff said.
“So you get a bunch of fuel build-up. Lots of brush, down branches, and baby trees that would have been killed off because the forest sort of keeps the right number of trees per acre,” she said.
As well as being fuel for wildfires, tightly packed trees fight for resources like water and sunlight and can become unhealthy and less disease-tolerant, she added. This is compounded by the stresses nature faces by climate change and rising temperatures. That’s why her company suggests, where appropriate, mechanically thinning trees and applying controlled fire as a solution. It is “pulling trees out to save forests,” she said.
Wolff, formerly marketing head at Netflix and sustainability advisor to eBay and Google, cofounded the startup with spatial ecologist Scott Conway, Netflix’s former chief product officer Neil Hunt, and ex-Lyft and Meta data lead Guy Bayes.
They are targeting everyone from private landowners, utilities, and indigenous tribes to NGOs, fire districts, and local and national governments as customers.
The land management platform includes real-time scenario planning. Its monitoring capabilities mean it always knows how much carbon and water is in a forest to determine its health, Wolff said. It is also using predictive analytics to suggest uses for the material that is cleared from a forest, for example turning biomass into biochar for carbon sequestration. Much of the fresh fund will be used to expand its predictive analytics and climate risk models.
It also wants to help customers rewild and increase biodiversity: Vibrant Planet’s scientists are currently mapping where beavers live and what habitats might work for them in the future.
The cash injection, which brings the company’s total raised to $34 million, comes from Ecosystem Integrity Fund. Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund, Citi Ventures, Day One Ventures, SIG Climate, and Globivest also participated in the round. The startup has also secured grants from NASA and the USDA Smart Commodities Program.
Check out the 22-slide redacted pitch deck below.