Chipotle Mexican Grill announced today two new investments in sustainable agriculture-focused startups, including regenerative farming AI and robotics solution company Greenfield Robotics, and low emissions fertilizer producer Nitricity.
The investments were made through Chipotle’s $50 million venture fund, CULTIVATE NEXT. Launched in 2022, the fund makes early-stage investments in companies aligned with Chipotle’s mission to “Cultivate a Better World,” and to help accelerate growth.
Regenerative agriculture practices are aimed at addressing the environmental impact of the sector, and include techniques to improve and restore ecosystems, build soil health and fertility, reduce emissions, enhance watershed management, increase biodiversity, and improve farmers’ livelihoods. Greenfield leverages robotics, AI and sensing technologies to provide regenerative agriculture solutions without chemicals, including using autonomous robots to cut weeds between rows of broadacre crops, reducing dependence on herbicides.
According to Chipotle, the investment will enable Greenfield to continue to build out its fleet of autonomous agricultural robots and develop additional capabilities for future iterations of its robots, including micro-spraying, cover crop planting and soil testing.
Clint Brauer, founder of Greenfield Robotics said:
“Like Chipotle’s commitment to Food with Integrity, we believe in the future of real, responsibly and sustainably raised food. In partnership with Chipotle, we can continue to explore creative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing farmers across the United States.”
Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer, Chipotle said:
“The work of Greenfield Robotics to build out a tech forward alternative to herbicides plays an important role in ensuring a more sustainable future for the agricultural industry. We will help Greenfield Robotics scale their robotic offerings and explore how their robots can be deployed on farms within our supply chain.”
Nitricity improves on the current method of producing nitrogen fertilizer, the Haber-Bosch method, which requires a large amount of fossil fuels and emits significant amounts of CO2, contributing to 5-7% of total global greenhouse gasses (GHG). Nitricity is developing a non-thermal plasma reactor that uses air, water, and renewable electricity to replicate lightning—which separates nitrogen in the atmosphere—to produce nitrogen fertilizer. Nitricity said its process has 5 to 10 times less GHG emissions due to its electrified production and field application process. The company is building its production model near end users to limit GHGs from transportation.
The new investment will be used to scale up Nitricity’s production of nitrogen, build out the company’s infrastructure, and support the launch of its first commercial product within the next two years.
Nico Pinkowski, co-founder and CEO of Nitricity said:
“Nitricity is committed to producing fertilizer that is optimized for farmers, not factory production or freight distribution. Partnering with Chipotle will unquestionably accelerate our path toward disrupting the industry with climate-smart technology.”
Jack Hartung, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, Chipotle said:
“We’re proud to support Nitricity’s pursuit of a product innovation whose environmental benefits are complementary to Chipotle’s approach to Food With Integrity. Fertilizers have experienced steep price increases in recent years due to supply chain issues, fossil fuel price volatility, and rising distribution costs. Nitricity’s fertilizer offering not only has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of the fertilizer industry, but it can be a cost-effective solution for growers in our supply chain.”