Interview with Alex Price, Climate Investment Fellow at Cleantech Hub

Alex Price, Climate Investment Fellow at Cleantech Hub, shares insights into his journey from the UK government to the heart of climate and environmental innovation in Latin America. He explains Cleantech Hub’s role as a clean tech accelerator, highlighting its comprehensive support for startups across the climate and agrifood sectors in Latin America.

Alex lists challenges faced by agrifood startups in the region, provides valuable advice and emphasizes the unique opportunities for investing in clean technology in Latin America, an agricultural powerhouse grappling with the impacts of climate change.

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Alex Price

tribu (T): Alex, can you start by sharing your professional background working in the UK government, and what eventually led you to Latin America and your current Fellowship at Cleantech Hub in Colombia?

Alex (A): I’ve been lucky in my career to have the chance to see climate change and green growth from lots of different perspectives. I’ve worked for the UK government on climate on everything from renewable energy regulation to long term climate plans for the whole economy and more recently the UK’s international climate finance – supporting other countries around the world to tackle climate change. This work brought me to Latin America. I was coordinating the UK’s climate programmes in the Amazon and then spent a year in Peru heading up our work on climate and environment there. My job in Peru came to an end and I had a choice of returning to London or spending some more time in Latin America and unsurprisingly I decided to stick around. I have been working with Cleantech Hub since then.  

(T): Could you provide our readers with a brief overview of Cleantech Hub? 

(A): Cleantech Hub is a clean tech accelerator. We work across the lifecycle of climate and environment focused startups to help them develop their ideas into a business, scale that business and get investment.

Alex at the Ean Catalisis event

(T): How does the hub support founders in the cleantech and agrifood sectors?

(A): We work at every stage; from ideation where someone just has a great idea and not even a product yet, all the way up to startups looking at series B rounds where we help make connections and support them through the process of raising.

(T): In terms of the startups you accelerate, can you tell us more about the specific types of companies you work with, such as their stage, industry focus, and geographic reach?

(A): We work across a broad range of sectors – agritech & bioeconomy, circular economy, energy transition etc. All of them have a Latin America focus, meaning they were either set up here or operate in the region. We tend to work at earlier stages up to series A with only a couple of companies later than that, the majority are around seed stage. 

(T): Could you share some examples of agrifood startups that have gone through the Cleantech Hub programs?

(A): We work with lots of impressive companies in that space so it’s hard to choose, but 4 that I think are doing really interesting but very different things at the moment are:

  1. Xiclo: replacing disposable containers used for takeaway food that create huge amounts of waste with reusable packaging and have created a whole platform to enable this.
  2. Greenleaf: turning waste from pineapple industry that would normally be burnt into fabrics.
  3. Novatio: creating biogas and fertilizers from waste in the agricultural sector – working with both big agri producers like palm companies and local communities. 
  4. BNS: sustainable coatings for fruit and vegetables to extend their life and replace hydrocarbon based technologies used currently. 

(T): What are the main challenges you’ve observed that agrifood startups encounter in Colombia or in Latin America as a whole, and what advice do you have for them in overcoming these challenges?

(A): Three big challenges that come to mind are:

  1. There’s a lack of expertise amongst some start-ups about investment, VCs and that whole ecosystem. The technical terms are all in English and often I think more complicated than is needed. That means if you’re an engineer from Colombia turning your innovation into a business idea and you don’t have a financial background and maybe don’t speak much English, it’s not an accessible world, which can be a barrier to great ideas getting the investment they need. I think funds need to help make themselves accessible and bridge this gap and it’s also what Cleantech Hub exists to do. 
  2. Many of the markets for clean tech or sustainable agriculture are still evolving. A lot is driven by changing regulations both in the region and globally and these are still being worked through. Again this is a complex area, particularly when it’s about supply chain sustainability regulations in Europe and so there’s lots that governments can do to try and communicate both these changes and direction of travel to help ensure no one gets left behind. 
  3. Finally there’s a lack of capital available for start-ups who are tackling some of the trickiest problems, that are the most important innovations, that are very capital intensive. You talk to lots of funds who are looking to invest in highly scalable solutions like software as a service, but very few who are willing to invest in manufacturing and infrastructure. The reality is that transforming our food and agriculture systems, like the wider energy transition, is really capital intensive. We have seen a growth in the number of funds willing to support start ups like these, but it’s not enough!

(T): Investing in clean technology is a global priority, do you see unique benefits of doing so in Latin America?

(A): Latin America is an agricultural superpower and probably the most biodiverse region on the planet. But as a region it’s also incredibly exposed to climate change. 

Many countries in Latin America are highly vulnerable to a changing climate and agriculture particularly will be hard hit, as we’re seeing with El Nino currently. As the world’s economy goes green there will also be increasing pressure on agricultural producers who export to markets like Europe and the US to green their supply chains – meaning producers risk getting squeezed on both sides. 

But this pressure is already driving innovation to make more resilient and sustainable products in a fast growing market – with huge opportunities for the region, if the investment in innovation happens here.

(T): Cleantech Hub is based in Colombia with plans for regional expansion. Can you provide insight into these expansion plans?

(A): Our HQ is in Bogota but we work across the region and we’re expanding next year. We’re working with Pvblic Foundation and US State Department to open hubs in Central America in Costa Rica and Guatemala. We will be partnering with universities in those countries, focusing on accelerating early stage innovation through programmes on ideation and incubation. 

(T): Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience, perhaps some exciting initiatives, upcoming events, or key takeaways for founders, corporations, and investors interested in the food innovation ecosystem?

(A): Clean tech has never been more important. COP28 just finished with the clearest language ever from the world’s governments, committing to the end of the fossil fuel era. Nature is now rightfully of ever increasing concern to the public, to investors and governments  So there are huge opportunities for businesses and investors in this space.

We’re going to be busy next year and would like to invite any of your readers to get in touch with us if you’re working in climate innovation in Latin America, particularly in Guatemala and Costa Rica where we’re expanding. 

We will also be launching calls early in 2024 for startups and founders who want to take part in our programmes so please sign up to our newsletter and follow us on social media, so that you know as soon as those go live. 

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Alex Price


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