Vietnam's sand battery startup Alternō secures $1.5 million to cut carbon emissions in agriculture

Invest Global 08:40 03/04/2024

Agricultural climate solutions firm Alternō has secured over $1.5 million co-led by The Radical Fund (Singapore) and Touchstone Partners (Vietnam).

In a significant leap forward for agricultural climate solutions, Alternō on April 2 announced that it has successfully secured over $1.5 million in an oversubscribed round co-led by leading impact and VC funds The Radical Fund (Singapore) and Touchstone Partners (Vietnam).

Vietnam's sand battery startup Alternō secures $1.5 million to cut carbon emissions in agriculture

The round also saw the participation of Antler (Vietnam), Impact Square (Korea), and Glocalink (Singapore), along with grants from international organisations.

Alternō was also one of the three winning teams at Net Zero Challenge 2023, a climate innovations competition in Vietnam organised by Touchstone Partners and Temasek Foundation.

Alternō provides an innovative thermal energy storage solution utilising sand battery technology tailored for agricultural applications across drying, warming, or heating needs. This patented technology comprises insulated sand with custom heat-conducting tubes. It ensures a seamless transition to low-carbon agricultural practices, while enabling substantial cost savings for customers in a price-sensitive sector, compared to conventional grid energy and lithium-ion batteries currently available in the market.

The increasing demand for thermal energy in agriculture, coupled with extreme climate change, underscores the importance of finding clean, sustainable energy sources to reduce carbon emissions.

"With the upcoming carbon tax (CBAM) introduced by the European Union on imported products, our vision not only contributes to reducing carbon emissions in agriculture but also enhances the competitiveness of Vietnamese companies on the international market with products meeting global green standards," said Hai Ho, co-founder & chief commercial of Alternō.

Alternō is developing industrial versions of its sand battery systems with current capacities ranging from 250 kWh to 1.8 megawatts. This will significantly save energy and reduce annual carbon emissions for farms and agricultural enterprises worldwide.

Alina Truhina, CEO and managing partner of The Radical Fund, which co-led the round, shared, “We are very excited to be backing Alterno, who are poised to transform the application of thermal energy through novel battery technology across Southeast Asia, as well as globally in potential future markets like Africa, Middle East and Latin America. Alterno’s integrated hardware and proprietary software currently decarbonises Southeast Asia’s agricultural sector, which contributes to 11 per cent of the region’s GDP and 13 per cent of GHG emissions. The company is a first-of-a-kind thermal battery and is the only low-duration thermal energy storage startup in Southeast Asia addressing the agricultural sector.”

Previously, Alternō received grants from international foundations, including $200,000 from Temasek Foundation, $350,000 from P4G, and $40,000 from Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Tu Ngo, general partner at Touchstone Partners, shared, "At Touchstone, we are deeply invested in backing ventures that combat climate change in Vietnam. By making sustainable heating solutions accessible and affordable through sand battery technology, Alternō is enabling farmers to adopt greener practices, contributing significantly to Vietnam's goal of net-zero emissions and, equally importantly, reducing operational costs in the agricultural sector. As the demand for thermal battery storage solutions grows globally, the scalability of this technology underscores its potential to meet increasing needs and contribute to broader sustainability goals.”

Innovation startups eager for further supporting policies Innovation startups eager for further supporting policies

While innovation startups and businesses seek supporting policies to further develop, more moves are nevertheless being planned. Pham Hong Quat, director general of the National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation Development under the Ministry of Science and Technology, discussed with VIR’s Bich Thuy what these moves entail.

Japan's NTT e-Asia invests in Vietnamese digital ads platform provider AWING Japan's NTT e-Asia invests in Vietnamese digital ads platform provider AWING

Japan's NTT e-Asia Corporation signed an agreement with AWING Technologies and Media JSC on March 15 to operate an ad-monetisation platform connecting multiple Wi-Fi owners and advertisers in Vietnam, aiming at expanding business overseas.

Agritech startup Techcoop raises $5 million Agritech startup Techcoop raises $5 million

With financing from local VC firm Ascend Vietnam Ventures (AVV) and Singapore-based VC firm TNB Aura, agritech startup TechCoop Pte. Ltd. secured over $5 million in equity and debt from local banks on March 21. Ethos Ventures, South Korean impact investor MYSC, and Mandala Capital also participated in the fundraising.

By Vy Bui