Published: 04 APR 2023

Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is tackling carbon emission challenges and supporting the New Zealand CleanTech Mission through new IP and global solutions.

We spoke with four companies working in the cleantech and climate tech industries in Auckland – Vertus Energy, Vortex Power Systems, CarbonClick and Avertana  – who are developing and commercialising solutions to address biofuel production at scale, generate electricity from waste heat, and offer tools to calculate, reduce and offset carbon footprint.

Vertus Energy: Harnessing bacteria to create power from waste 

Biofuel produced from plants, as well as from agricultural, domestic and industrial biowaste, is one of the fastest growing ‘green’ fuels. The transportation industry – which spans aviation, trucking, shipping and even private vehicles – is especially interested in biofuels as the transportation seeks to address its carbon footprint. With fast-growing demand comes an increased need to address production efficiency. Anaerobic digester systems have typically been limited in their ability to replace fossil gas at scale, held back by slow processing times, low methane yields and high operating costs.  

Vertus Energy is an industrial biotechnology company tackling the need for efficient biofuel production at scale. The company’s breakthrough BRIO™ technology harnesses bacteria behaviour to generate 60 per cent more energy from biowaste, and at a rate three times faster than other products. These significant gains make biofuel increasingly attractive to more industries, both from the environmental and financial cost perspectives. Backed by 10 years at the forefront of microbial behaviour research and five years of technology development, the co-founders – Chief Technology Officer Dr Danilo Perez, Chief Engineer Freddy Gonzalez, Chief Operating Officer Benjamin Howard and Chief Commercial Officer Santiago de los Reyes – bring deep expertise in chemistry, engineering, project management and business development. The company recently opened an office in Vienna to further expand into the fast-growing European market, where biomethane is well-established as a biofuel. A number of investors, such as Icehouse Ventures, Outset Ventures (both based in Auckland) and NOAB Ventures (in Sydney), are backing this expansion. 

Visit the Vertus Energy website to find out more.  

Vortex Power Systems: generating electricity from waste heat at existing thermal power stations 

Vortex Power Systems - Left to right - Neil Hawkes -  Richard Flay - Perzan - Billy Bowman with Judith Collins
Left to right - Neil Hawkes - Richard Flay - Perzan -
Billy Bowman with Judith Collins

Industry is facing enormous pressure to shift its practices to enable a net-zero carbon economy. Helping to make this happen is Vortex Power Systems (VPS), founded in 2017 with a vision to generate clean power from atmospheric vortices. By creating clean energy from a problematic byproduct of many essential industrial processes, VPS helps to overcome the limitations of intermittent power supply associated with sources of renewable energy. 

VPS’s proprietary system collects low-grade waste heat left over from thermal processes which is usually disposed of in expensive cooling towers. From this waste heat, it generates and controls a freestanding atmospheric buoyancy vortex, using a turbine to harness the power of the vortex and create clean electricity. VPS’s system works as an ‘add-on’ to existing on-site infrastructure and can create significant additional efficiency gains for industrial plants and base load generation, such as geothermal plants. Led by CEO Perzaan Mehta, Vortex Power Systems is drawing on research by Professor Richard Flay and Neil Hawkes at Waipapa Taumata Rau | University of Auckland, with Flay serving as Chief Science Officer and Hawkes as Chief Technology Officer. The company also has a board of seasoned directors. 

Currently, Vortex Power Systems is raising NZ$5 million to build an ‘at-scale’ pilot plant that will create a kilometres-high whirlwind to drive a generator turbine. This full-scale trial will be used to secure an early adopter. The company’s current investors include the University of Auckland Inventors’ Fund, Pacific Channel, Icehouse Ventures and family office K1W1.

Visit the Vortex Power Systems website to find out more. 

CarbonClick: making carbon offsetting simple, meaningful and transparent 

Businesses of all sizes are aware of the environmental and commercial imperative to offer carbon offsetting programmes for their customers, but many lack the expertise and resources to do so. Among the top carbon-offset providers globally (especially in English-speaking countries), Auckland-based CarbonClick offers a platform for businesses to manage and promote carbon offsetting programmes.  

CarbonClick - CEO Dave Rouse
CarbonClick CEO, Dave Rouse

Businesses and consumers can access the tools and resources to calculate, reduce and offset their carbon footprint. CarbonClick’s technology stack integrates with various digital user journeys, such as airline booking flows, online shops or event ticketing. Solutions suit any business looking to complement its reduction strategies and with a particular focus on the aviation, travel, sports and e-commerce sectors. Customers include Etihad Airways, Suncorp, Manchester Airport Group, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and Constellation Brands.  

Collaborating with e-commerce giants Shopify, Magento and SAP Commerce Cloud, CarbonClick’s e-commerce platform enables retailers to add a ‘green button’ to their online stores, giving their customers the power to offset their purchase at checkout. 

Sourcing highly vetted projects around the world certified by registries, such as Gold Standard, Verra or the American Carbon Registry, CarbonClick directs all offset contributions to a balance of reforestation and high-impact clean energy projects. These projects also go beyond carbon to create wider benefits, such as restoring native ecosystems and helping communities in developing countries. All projects align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

CarbonClick provides full end-to-end transparency to customers, so they know what kind of projects they are supporting. Customers who offset their carbon footprint receive an instant track-and-trace receipt that details the breakdown of their contribution and traces the impact back to individual projects. 

Founded in ​​2019 by a team of four, the company is led by CEO Dave Rouse, Chief Operating Officer Michelle Noordermeer, Chief ​​Customer Officer Jan Czaplicki and Chief Technology Officer Paul Brady. Headquartered in Auckland, CarbonClick has local representatives in the US, Ireland/UK and Southeast Asia. Investors include Auckland’s Icehouse Ventures and Singapore-based Velocity Ventures, which is supporting the company’s expansion into Southeast Asia. 

Visit the CarbonClick website to find out more. 

Avertana: Closing the loop – from industrial waste to essential raw materials 

In light of recent global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical shifts, supply-chain risk mitigation and environmental concerns have become increasingly important for manufacturers. Avertana, a process technology company founded in Auckland in 2014, provides a solution to these challenges through its proprietary ‘circular economy’ approach. This approach involves refining solid industrial waste streams into valuable mineral and chemical raw materials that are then used to make everyday products. 

Avertana team photo
The Avertana team

By using existing industrial waste instead of mined ores to make products, Avertana helps its customers build more sustainable supply chains while reducing costs, waste and CO2 emissions. Avertana’s process involves refining waste slag from the steel industry to produce essential raw materials such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment, aluminum sulfate, magnesium sulfate and gypsum. These materials are used in a variety of everyday products, including paints, papermaking, water treatment, fertilizers, and building products. 

With Avertana’s process, hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste slag from steel mills in China, South Africa, New Zealand and Russia can now be repurposed to manufacture valuable commodities like TiO2.  

The company’s leadership team includes CEO Michael Oliver, VP Technical & Project Director Brandon Swanepoel, and Co-Founder and VP Commercial James Obern. 

Investors in Avertana include leading technology investor K1W1, the direct investments arm of ACC, private US and Japanese family offices, Icehouse Ventures, GRC SinoGreen (Taipei), and several other venture funds.  

Visit the Avertana website to find out more. 

Find out more

Contact our team to learn more about investment opportunities in cleantech in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, New Zealand.

DISCLAIMER: This article provides general information on potential investment opportunities in Auckland and is not intended to be used as a substitute for financial advice. The views and opinions expressed are those of the relevant author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Tātaki Auckland Unlimited. Tātaki Auckland Unlimited disclaims all liability in connection with any action that may be taken in reliance of this article, and for any error, deficiency, flaw or omission contained in it.