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Entrepreneurs pitch underwater farms, green tech

Veronica Brezina



TAKMARA Founder Todd Kleperis pitches to a panel of judges at TBIC's ClimateTech accelerator pitch event. Photo by Veronica Brezina.

Underwater farming pods and a device that harnesses energy from ocean waves to produce electricity were among the technologies presented Monday evening during Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s ClimateTech accelerator pitch event. 

The ClimateTech accelerator is the region’s first climate tech-focused program designed for early-stage tech ventures, which include startups in the agtech, marine science, manufacturing and weather monitoring spaces.

TBIC received interest from over 250 startups to join the program, which launched in March. 

Through the 12-week accelerator, the eight selected companies attended online workshops, met with mentors and conducted customer discovery research.

As part of the conclusion of the program, the participating startups presented to a panel of capitalists inside The Birchwood hotel in St. Petersburg. 

The judging capitalists included Andreas Calabrese with Tampa Bay Ventures, Benjamin Patz with DeepWork Capital, Candice Rezvanian of Legible and Joy Randels with The Prowess Group.

The pitching startups

Building Lens: Founder David Burchfield, who has over a decade of experience managing HVAC systems for commercial buildings, has developed a software device that easily manages the HVAC systems and ultimately results in energy cost savings. His plans to approach building owners and offer to test the air quality in the buildings.  

Get Green: Founder Brian Ringer has created a team engagement application to promote employee sustainability programs. The app can measure a company’s solid waste and energy reduction. A company’s employees using the app can earn points as they progress toward their goals. Ringer currently has two paying customers, which pay $12,000 a year for the service. Over the next six months, he hopes to secure eight new customers that have over 500 employees. 

Hago Energetics: Founder Wilson Hago has developed a system for converting waste into premium-grade hydrogen gas. He converts methane from landfills and farms into hydrogen and carbon. The carbon goes into the soil while the company produces the hydrogen. Hago Enterprises has two paid pilots with one based at a dairy farm in California and another at a wastewater treatment plant in New York. The company has raised over $1 million. Hago said the startup pays to lease the land and has a revenue-sharing model from the hydrogen sales. 

Connex2X: CEO and founder Nick Porrini created a battery-based power management system for vehicles and grids. The system provides a wireless tech that exchanges information from vehicle to vehicle, allowing drivers to broadcast their location and speed. The goal is to reduce the number of crashes. While the technology isn’t new, Porrini said it hasn’t been commercialized. He hopes to have the tech available in car shops. 

Laminar Scientific: Founder Narayan Iyer and his team are converting wave energy to power remote grids. The company has raised $500,000 and has secured two patents with three pending. The startup has a contract with a Southeast Asian mining and energy company, which is paying a licensing fee. The device can be deployed 1,000 feet from the shoreline and can change shape to withstand storms. 

TEKMARA: Founder Todd Kleperis is growing mushrooms inside underwater pods in Sarasota. He has built a platform for sustainable modular farming in marine environments, similar to vertical farming. He said climate change and other factors are depleting nutrients found in soil, which isn’t sustainable for the long term. However, he believes, the ocean can be the next best source. Kelperis said has grown mushrooms in his underwater pods for the Bistro 9 restaurant in Land O’ Lakes and he is working with the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel brand in growing food for hotel guests.  The pods are 20-by-20-foot containers, which yield the same amount of food 60 acres of land could produce. 

Zero Circle: Founder Hemanth Setty has created a platform for tracking metrics of supply chain vendors and facilitating capital for sustainability improvements. The startup has three pilots in progress and multiple signed letters of intent from companies. 

Haylon Technologies: The startup offers a battery-based power management system for everything from drones to microgrids, according to TBIC. 

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