Conservation Tech refers to the application of technology to biodiversity conservation efforts, such as tracking, monitoring, and regenerating forest and marine ecosystems. These technologies include drones, aerial imagery, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), environmental DNA (eDNA), AI/ML, and more.
Ongoing deforestation and forest degradation are threatening biodiversity. This loss of natural habitat also puts nearly 50% of the world's species at risk of extinction by the end of the century unless immediate action is taken. As a result, efforts to mitigate and reverse ecosystem damage are on the rise, with companies developing innovative solutions, such as forest management systems, ocean tracking devices, and conservation platforms to restore balance and help businesses operate with less negative environmental impact. These efforts are further supported by ambitious net-zero emissions targets, the introduction of favorable policies and frameworks, such as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, and the popularity of conservation-led carbon offsets, such as REDD and tree planting. In addition, the escalating freshwater crisis affecting billions of people is driving the adoption of more cost-effective and sustainable desalination solutions.
The Conservation Tech space is currently dominated by startups, particularly in segments such as 1) forest and wildlife monitoring and 2) marine monitoring, which account for half of the identified players in the industry in these segments alone.
Notably, over two-thirds of these companies are in growth or early stages, suggesting that these solutions have proven commercial scope. Seed-stage companies account for the smaller share of the space, competing with companies like Saildrone, LiquidRobotics, and Nature Metrics and standing out for their in-house tracking and monitoring solutions.
Incumbent activity is mainly focused on forest and wildlife monitoring and forest regeneration, with limited activity in marine monitoring and nill activities acrosss the other segments. However, there are few established players that are focusing on providing supportive technologies, mainly by partnering with disruptors or related players.
As most disruptors and incumbents primarily focus on forest and wildlife monitoring and marine monitoring, these two industry segments were the highest funded, followed closely by forest regeneration. Resultantly, ecosystem monitoring, on the whole, has attracted more funding than ecosystem regeneration.
Major global aerospace giants, such as Airbus and Boeing, are among the incumbents active in Conservation Tech space, focusing mainly on providing tracking and monitoring solutions. For these players, the most common growth strategy involves M&As and product collaborations with startups and other incumbents in the field.
In-house developments by incumbents are limited to forest and wildlife monitoring, forest regneration, and marine monitoring segments. There is a lack of incumbent activity in marine regeneration, conservation platforms, and next-gen desalination, implying that these are still emerging Conservation Tech solutions within the industry.
In terms of M&A activities, Boeing’s acquisition of Liquid Robotics in 2016 is one of the key acquisitions in the space to date. An M&A in more recent times involved Innovasea acquiring Aquanetix, a UK-based aquaculture software company, to improve Innovasea’s precision aquaculture platform and provide better supportive technologies that allow customers make data-driven decisions.