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Windfall Bio could solve an intense greenhouse gas problem by turning methane into fertilizer

Windfall Bio is a new company on a mission to reduce methane emissions -- the greenhouse gas with 80 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide.

While the major pathway to reducing both CO2 and methane emissions is well understood (i.e. stop burning fossil fuels), fully cutting methane emissions out of the warming equation is a bit trickier. That's because two other major methane emitters are animal agriculture and food waste.

Windfall Bio wants to tackle the agricultural methane problem with a new system that uses genetically modified microbes to turn methane into fertilizer.

“Our methane-to-fertilizer solution is a paradigm shift for climate technologies,” said Josh Silverman, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Windfall Bio. “We are empowering farmers of all sizes to be a part of the methane solution, improving efficiency and reducing costs while also helping them reduce their reliance on synthetic fertilizers. Windfall’s technology represents a unique win-win-win for farmers, consumers, and climate.”

For Silverman, Windfall Bio is the latest in a long line of startups focused on turning biological innovations into money-making businesses.

The Stanford-educated biochemist initially realized the value in methane conversion as the co-founder of Siluria, a startup that converted natural gas into higher value fuels and chemicals.

For his next trick, the serial entrepreneur turned to the magic of microbes in manufacturing proteins at Calysta, which makes nutrients for feed and food products.

Now, he's combined his deep expertise with methane and biology to build Windfall Bio -- along with $9 million in funding from a slew of investors including Mayfield and UNTITLED—a venture fund founded by Magnus Rausing of the TetraLaval Family, along with the Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund.

What's unique about Windfall is its ability to capture what's called "dilute" methane -- that's the low concentration sources of methane that account for most methane emissions (i.e. coal-mine ventilation air, manure storage headspace and animal feeding house ventilation air).

The company is seemingly starting with manure storage and animal feeding house ventilation sources, given its beach-head market on farms, but the technology could have much wider implications.

"Breakthrough Energy is increasingly focused on solutions that address methane removal efficiently. Windfall Bio is unique in that they have unlocked a way to leverage the power of biology to address dilute methane emissions while making valuable agricultural products," said Carmichael Roberts of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the climate-focused investment firm launched by Bill Gates and other billionaires. "The company is one of the first to tackle very dilute and atmospheric methane removal, especially in agriculture, and we look forward to the impact Windfall will make."

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