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Biofuel start-up raises $1.2 million to make fossil fuels extinct

27 January 2022

Vertus Energy, a biofuel start-up co-founded by University of Auckland alumnus Freddy Gonzalez, has raised $1.2 million in a pre-seed funding round led by Icehouse Ventures for its innovative green fuel generation technology. Their technology revolutionises the production of green fuel by making the process of converting methane released from sludge, manure, and other organic waste into renewable energy faster and more efficient. 

Freddy, who is the Chief Engineer at Vertus Energy, explains “There are currently three main ways of generating renewable natural gas (RNG), all of which have flaws that limit their potential. Anaerobic digestion, the most common way of producing RNG, has a large footprint, low yield, is slow, and is currently propped up by government subsidies. With our proprietary technology, anaerobic digestion can deliver up to 60% more energy three times faster, enabling it to become a truly sustainable option for the planet.

“We recognise ourselves as a cleantech company, dedicated to generating innovation within the green energy industry; making the worldwide transition to renewables more reliable and profitable. We believe in a world that uses all of its resources including waste and emissions to achieve 100% renewable energy. This includes replacing fossil natural gas (which currently supplies 25% of the world’s energy) with green fuels.”

Freddy’s curiosity about innovation and finding alternatives to fossil fuels began as an undergraduate at the Federico Santa María Technical University in Chile. He says, “As I see it, engineering and innovation are very much related. Industries that want to survive must continually transform their processes so that they are safer, cheaper, faster, and cleaner – challenges that engineers will need to solve with innovative approaches.”

He arrived at the University of Auckland hoping to continue pursuing his interest in innovation and entrepreneurship. Freddy stumbled upon Get Good Done, a programme focused on developing solutions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). He says, “Reconnecting with my innovator side while studying a Master in Engineering was tough. It was easy to lose sight of the big picture while trying to get good marks. At least it was until I heard of Get Good Done which was the perfect opportunity to pause and think from a new perspective.”

Freddy says being involved with CIE was a great learning experience. “I gained knowledge about all kinds of things such as social entrepreneurship, the Business Model Canvas, the importance of understanding the problem at hand, and market validation. I also admired how committed students were to finding solutions to complex problems in such a short period of time, and love that I have since had the chance to put my learnings into practice at Vertus Energy.”

Since co-founding Vertus Energy in 2020, the close-knit team of four has experienced firsthand the importance of building a diverse team whose skills complement each other and cover all the bases needed to get a start-up off the ground. “For example, as engineers, our CTO Danilo Perez and I get really excited about the technology (which is easy because our tech is awesome.) However, our CCO Santiago de los Reyes and COO Benjamin Howard are really great at helping us stay focused on the problem and our customers as well as potential solutions,” says Freddy.

Freddy advises students who may be curious about innovation and entrepreneurship to be patient, follow their passions, and focus on problems. He says, “Starting a business is a journey and does not happen overnight. Stay curious and the right moment will appear. For example, Vertus Energy happened ten years after my first attempt at a start-up. In the meantime, discover what you’re passionate about, find people with similar mindsets, and seek out opportunities to learn and grow – especially at university. Finally, take the time to identify real problems that need solving. There are plenty out there, and could always do with more people working on them.”

Raising funds was a “challenging experience that required the best of the team,” says Freddy.  “It’s worth doing your research so that you can find the right type of investors for you, and connecting with people who have been through it before for advice and support. The funding will enable us to expand our pilots and continue optimising our technology. We are also engaging with independent research institutes to review and validate our technology ahead of securing local and international customers. And of course, the funding it will go towards the development of new and exciting tech!”

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education
University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

27 January 2022

Vertus Energy, a biofuel start-up co-founded by University of Auckland alumnus Freddy Gonzalez, has raised $1.2 million in a pre-seed funding round led by Icehouse Ventures for its innovative green fuel generation technology. Their technology revolutionises the production of green fuel by making the process of converting methane released from sludge, manure, and other organic waste into renewable energy faster and more efficient. 

Freddy, who is the Chief Engineer at Vertus Energy, explains “There are currently three main ways of generating renewable natural gas (RNG), all of which have flaws that limit their potential. Anaerobic digestion, the most common way of producing RNG, has a large footprint, low yield, is slow, and is currently propped up by government subsidies. With our proprietary technology, anaerobic digestion can deliver up to 60% more energy three times faster, enabling it to become a truly sustainable option for the planet.

“We recognise ourselves as a cleantech company, dedicated to generating innovation within the green energy industry; making the worldwide transition to renewables more reliable and profitable. We believe in a world that uses all of its resources including waste and emissions to achieve 100% renewable energy. This includes replacing fossil natural gas (which currently supplies 25% of the world’s energy) with green fuels.”

Freddy’s curiosity about innovation and finding alternatives to fossil fuels began as an undergraduate at the Federico Santa María Technical University in Chile. He says, “As I see it, engineering and innovation are very much related. Industries that want to survive must continually transform their processes so that they are safer, cheaper, faster, and cleaner – challenges that engineers will need to solve with innovative approaches.”

He arrived at the University of Auckland hoping to continue pursuing his interest in innovation and entrepreneurship. Freddy stumbled upon Get Good Done, a programme focused on developing solutions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). He says, “Reconnecting with my innovator side while studying a Master in Engineering was tough. It was easy to lose sight of the big picture while trying to get good marks. At least it was until I heard of Get Good Done which was the perfect opportunity to pause and think from a new perspective.”

Freddy says being involved with CIE was a great learning experience. “I gained knowledge about all kinds of things such as social entrepreneurship, the Business Model Canvas, the importance of understanding the problem at hand, and market validation. I also admired how committed students were to finding solutions to complex problems in such a short period of time, and love that I have since had the chance to put my learnings into practice at Vertus Energy.”

Since co-founding Vertus Energy in 2020, the close-knit team of four has experienced firsthand the importance of building a diverse team whose skills complement each other and cover all the bases needed to get a start-up off the ground. “For example, as engineers, our CTO Danilo Perez and I get really excited about the technology (which is easy because our tech is awesome.) However, our CCO Santiago de los Reyes and COO Benjamin Howard are really great at helping us stay focused on the problem and our customers as well as potential solutions,” says Freddy.

Freddy advises students who may be curious about innovation and entrepreneurship to be patient, follow their passions, and focus on problems. He says, “Starting a business is a journey and does not happen overnight. Stay curious and the right moment will appear. For example, Vertus Energy happened ten years after my first attempt at a start-up. In the meantime, discover what you’re passionate about, find people with similar mindsets, and seek out opportunities to learn and grow – especially at university. Finally, take the time to identify real problems that need solving. There are plenty out there, and could always do with more people working on them.”

Raising funds was a “challenging experience that required the best of the team,” says Freddy.  “It’s worth doing your research so that you can find the right type of investors for you, and connecting with people who have been through it before for advice and support. The funding will enable us to expand our pilots and continue optimising our technology. We are also engaging with independent research institutes to review and validate our technology ahead of securing local and international customers. And of course, the funding it will go towards the development of new and exciting tech!”


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