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Fortuna Cools, a Philippines-based agritech startup making sustainable coolers out of coconut fibre, has closed its round of seed funding. The company is backed by ADB Ventures, the impact investment arm of Asian Development Bank, and will be using the funds to ramp up production of its biodegradable plastic-free alternative to traditional styrofoam containers.
Manila-headquartered startup Fortuna Cools has raised an undisclosed amount of funding in its seed round led by ADB Ventures, and joined by the Katapult Ocean Fund, Pasudeco Development Corporation, Manila Angel Investors Network, Nardo Holdings and She1k. The agritech, whose solution won the UNDP’s Ocean Innovation Prize this year, says the capital will go towards boosting production and launching its second product, which is designed for consumers.
Fortuna Cools’ first product, Coconut Cooler, is made from upcycled coconut fibre sourced from small agricultural communities in partnership with the conservation nonprofit Rare. The containers, aimed at food distributors, farmer cooperatives and supermarkets, are biodegradable and created to replace the unsustainable use of styrofoam boxes used to insulate fresh foods and produce in transport and packaging.
We hear the demand for less plastic waste among everyone from fish traders to sunbathers, while small-scale coconut farmers have no choice today but to burn their piles of leftover husks.David Cutler, Co-Founder & CEO, Fortuna Cools
The startup, founded in 2018 by David Cutler and Tamara Mekler, is now gearing up to launch its second product dubbed the Nutshell Cooler, its first consumer-facing product. Also made from upcycled coconut fibre, the container is collapsible and is designed for everyday food packaging applications.
“The Nutshell Cooler is built with our same natural fibre insulation that we’ve developed over the past few years. But there are various differences in the design to make it suitable for outdoor recreation and casual use, [such as] trips to the beach, weekend getaway, even grocery shopping,” CEO Cutler told e27 in a recent interview.
A portion of the fresh funds will additionally go towards growing the startup’s sales and engineering teams, lowering costs and ramping up its capacity in order to have a larger-scale impact on small-scale coconut farmers in the Philippines.
“We hear the demand for less plastic waste among everyone from fish traders to sunbathers, while small-scale coconut farmers have no choice today but to burn their piles of leftover husks,” said Cutler.
Fortuna’s nature-based insulation solution not only aims to replace plastic foam but in doing so will provide communities with a more robust and lower cost cold storage solution.Ross Brooks, Investment Manager, Katapult Ocean
“We’re proud to pioneer a new kind of cooler, and we’re proud that positive impact is built into every fibre we use.”
Commenting on the decision to back the startup, Ross Brooks, investment manager at Katapult Ocean, said: “Fortuna’s nature-based insulation solution not only aims to replace plastic foam but in doing so will provide communities with a more robust and lower cost cold storage solution.”
“Material innovation is key to solving the plastic waste problem in our oceans,” Brooks added.
As awareness of the global plastic crisis grows, more investors are now banking on innovative packaging, with a number of companies developing sustainable solutions attracting funding recently, such as compostable bag startup Tipa and Hong Kong’s plant-based fibre food container company Ecoinno.
All images courtesy of Fortuna Cools.