Echo River May 2023 Update
Updated: Jun 28
In this issue:
ERC Fund I Closes
New Investment in Swan Systems
Fund I Announces Final Close I’m delighted to announce the final close on fundraising for Echo River Capital Fund I. Building on the 12 initial angel investments and subsequent additional investments, Echo River will continue to pursue pre-seed and seed stage investments to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Echo River will pursue partnerships with founders that seek to digitize, decentralize and decarbonize the water cycle across the variety of industries in which water is a critical input into both human and nature-based solutions. Please join us by introducing your favorite founders innovating for a more sustainable water world. Sign up to receive these updates at Echo River Capital and follow us on LinkedIn.
New Investment in Swan Systems Echo River is announcing its newest investment in Swan Systems, the leader in agricultural irrigation scheduling and nutrient management. Swan’s platform integrates over 100 data inputs from sensors and satellites to create optimal irrigation schedules for growers of field crops, tree crops and row crops. Hear directly from CEO Tim Hyde in this video for growers. Together with six other AgTech portfolio companies, Echo River has the potential to improve the water and energy efficiency for almost every type of irrigated crop.
The other AgTech portfolio companies include:
AgMonitor: Improving on-farm energy efficiency
Epic Cleantec: Recycling agricultural process water, especially for wineries
Glanris: Turning agricultural waste from rice and nuts into carbon positive biochar
Irrigreen: Saving up to 50% of irrigated water of turfgrass for home owners and installers.
Kairospace: Infusing water with nanobubbles for outdoor and indoor farming productivity
Verdi Ag: Controlling irrigation and fertigation at the plant level
Waterplan: Managing water risks for large corporations including AgriFood and Wine producers.
Why is agricultural water use so important, and why is about a third of the portfolio directed towards solving irrigation? Because about 80% of the world’s water consumption goes to grow food for humans and feed for cows. As the NY Times says, “it’s less about long showers and more about what’s for dinner.” This graphic illustrates the water consumption pathways produced by the inimitable Brian Richter (a former colleague of mine at The Nature Conservancy) and others:
With this investment in Swan Systems, Echo River is responding to the water supply crisis in the Colorado River Basin. The three lower basin states have just come to an initial agreement to cut back water deliveries by three million acre-feet, or about 30% of the long-term historical annual discharge. Growers using Swan’s platform “are able to make informed decisions to increase or decrease irrigation to ensure plants are provided with optimal water and nutrients to meet their needs. In addition to water management, SWAN has sophisticated fertilizer planning, logging and reporting functionalities.”
If the Lower Basin states are to meet their 3 million acre-feet conservation target (equivalent to about 1 trillion gallons of water per year) agricultural irrigators will need to rapidly adopt technologies at scale, to shift crop types to more efficient and high value crops, or fallow their fields.
ERC Portfolio Updates
Waterplan closed on $11M Series A to manage corporate water risk led by Base10 Ventures with participation from Giant Ventures, Transition Globa, YCombinator, MCJ Collective and the Branson Family.
AgMonitor was featured in this customer video about a reduction in Scope 2 emissions and operating costs by integrating solar and time-of-use irrigation.
There is so much happening in the world of water investing and water policy. Some headlines by topic are below.
California has signed an agreement with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe to establish co-equal management for salmon restoration in the Sacramento and McCloud Rivers. This is an important development since “They’re actually letting us at the table. Before, they wouldn’t even let us on the steering committee,” said Caleen Sisk, the tribe’s chief and spiritual leader.
Residential water service is becoming less affordable. “Anecdotally and empirically, many households have difficulty paying for water services…Drivers of unaffordable water services include low household incomes, increased regulatory costs, increased energy costs, aging infrastructure, population loss, climate change, and the rising costs of capital associated with finance. (PLOS Water)
SCOTUS weakens wetlands protections endangering water quality and exacerbating flooding. The Justices in the majority don’t understand that hydrology can be connected whether above or below ground, and that water does not observe property right delineations. Decision Text Here and WaPo Summary here.
The LA Times story about how California has partnered with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe to restore salmon on the McCloud River highlights the importance of incorporating and integrating Traditional Knowledge into modern Western Knowledge Systems. An important new paper provides a pathway for others to do so. Gathering information from 143 records of diverse freshwater projects, the authors describe both Principles and Practices for braiding these two systems together. Here’s a summary from the Executive Summary of this technical report titled “Indigenous and Western Knowledge: Bringing Diverse Understandings of Water Together in Practice” by Samantha Mehltretter, Sheri Longboat, Brittany Luby and Andrea Bradford.
A view of the Sacramento River downstream from Keswick Dam, where endangered winter-run Chinook salmon come to spawn. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
“For many Indigenous Peoples, water is a living entity with inherent value to be revered and protected – an essential relationship that extends beyond dominant Western approaches that value water as a resource only for the economic, social and environmental benefits provided to humans. While efforts are being made to bring diverse Indigenous and Western values, worldviews and knowledge systems together to restore freshwater systems, on a practical level the question remains: “how to do so?” in an ethical and responsible way.” This report is an amazing reference for those looking to braid these traditional and western systems together.
Please send any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and (415) 203-0432. Here's to a future of water abundance.
About Echo River Capital Echo River Capital is an impact venture firm advancing water technology for global impact based in San Francisco. Echo River invests in emerging technologies to digitize, decarbonize and decentralize the water cycle to improve human health, the environment and climate resilience. Peter Yolles, General Partner, is the former co-founder and CEO of WaterSmart Software, which was acquired in 2020. Peter adds strategic value with 30 years of operating experience in the water industry along with a Yale MBA in finance and a Master's in water science, policy and management.