Salesforce chief Marc Benioff and Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke invest in reforestation startup DroneSeed
New funding: As wildfires continue to burn in the Western U.S., reforestation startup DroneSeed on Wednesday announced a $36 million Series A round. The company has already used some of the funds to purchase Silvaseed, a 130-year-old Western Washington forestry company that collects cones for seeds and grows seedlings. Seattle-based DroneSeed will also use its cash to expand and meet the growing demand for its services.
DroneSeed previously raised $7.4 million over multiple rounds, according to PitchBook.
Competitive edge: DroneSeed, which was part of the 2016 Techstars Seattle cohort, is reportedly the only company that has an FAA license to use a fleet of heavy-lift drones for post-fire reforestation. The company can deploy its seed-dropping fleet within 30 days of a fire — a quicker time frame, the startup says, compared to traditional strategies.
DroneSeed also provides carbon-offset credits for businesses and agencies that use its reforestation services. The offsets are used to reduce an organization’s carbon footprint.
Current customers include tribal nations, three of five of the largest U.S. timber companies, nonprofits, government agencies and family-owned forests.
Hot sector: Climate tech, and fire-related startups, are an expanding sector. Global experts have warned that rapid, aggressive actions are needed to prevent the worst effects of global warming, and the public is increasingly recognizing that disruptive changes are already underway. Climate tech companies in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia have netted more than $2 billion in venture capital since launching, with more than half of those investments coming since the start of 2020.
“Recent data has shown that natural forest regeneration is in significant decline due to the size and severity of fires which destroy seed sources. Fire season is expected to only get worse because of climate change,” said DroneSeed CEO Grant Canary, in a statement. “This funding round, coupled with the acquisition of Silvaseed, enables us to scale up the infrastructure needed for reforestation to meet this skyrocketing demand and customer need.
Leadership: In 2015 Canary co-founded DroneSeed with Ryan Mykita, who is now head of revenue for a California agtech company.
Prior to DroneSeed, Canary founded a green tech company that he sold to British Columbia’s Enterra Feed. He also worked for Vesta, a global leader in wind power, and for other climate tech companies.
Ben Reilly is DroneSeed’s chief technology officer. His prior role was CTO of ReUP, which was acquired by Treez.
Investors: The round was led by Social Capital and Seven Seven Six. Additional new investors were DBL Partners, an early investor in Tesla and SpaceX; Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke; Resilience Reserve; and Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures. Lütke and Benioff have been active over the past several years in supporting climate-related action.
Other investors include Spero Ventures, Gaingels with Flight.vc, HBS Lady Angels, Julia Lipton’s Awesome People Ventures, the Coalition angels including Ashley Mayer, Massive, Drone.vc, and Rob Ness Syndicate.
More than 60% of the round came from investors with a climate and impact fund focus, according to DroneSeed.