PlantSwitch Closes $8 Million to Commercialize Bioplastic Technology

Here is one of my favorite companies—using “waste” bioplastic to mold those plastic eating utensils ubiquitous in fast food restaurants and picnics. They have a small operating plant and just closed an $8 million round to increase production. How many more energy and resource saving ideas are lurking out there in the minds of my readers?

PlantSwitch has developed revolutionary bioplastic technology that converts cellulosic agricultural waste streams into a low-cost, compostable plastic resin alternative. As bans on single-use plastic are increasing globally and major corporations are searching for ways to reduce their plastic footprint, PlantSwitch is uniquely positioned to provide a compostable, cost-effective alternative to conventional plastic that is both sustainable and scalable.

“Alternatives to plastic have traditionally failed to deliver on cost, quality, and availability,” shares CEO and Founder Dillon Baxter. “PlantSwitch was founded with the mission to deliver a bioplastic alternative that can replace all traditional single-use plastics. To do that, the technology must be low-cost, high performance, and rapidly scalable; and those 3 tenets have guided every decision our development team has made since inception.”

Proceeds from this raise will be used to launch PlantSwitch’s first commercial manufacturing facility in North Carolina and expand its team. At scale, the 52,000 sq ft facility is expected to produce over 50M lbs of bioplastic resin annually. PlantSwitch’s customers include some of the leading brands and manufacturers in foodservice, CPG, cosmetics, and agricultural products, and the company expects this facility to reach its capacity in 2025. PlantSwitch currently has 12 employees, primarily chemical engineers and polymer scientists that have made significant contributions to the field of sustainable materials.

Aligned with PlantSwitch’s vision, NexPoint Capital is a large institutional investor with a climate tech platform, where they allocate early-stage capital to climate-smart technologies that will require significant infrastructure to scale. NexPoint currently holds over $16 billion in assets under management.

“At NexPoint, we are always looking to support companies that do important work, and offer attractive opportunities for growth,” said Scott Johnson, Managing Director & Portfolio Manager at NexPoint Capital.  “PlantSwitch certainly fits that bill and represents an investment that aligns with our values and expertise in Climate Tech businesses.”

PlantSwitch is now gearing up for its 2024 Series A fundraise, which will be used to expand capacity with additional manufacturing facilities.

“Major corporations have made commitments to lower their plastic consumption and the toxic waste it produces, but the proper infrastructure to deliver a viable alternative hasn’t existed,” says PlantSwitch CEO Dillon Baxter. “This $8 million raise, in partnership with NexPoint, is being invested in building out this infrastructure, which will drive the alternative plastics market forward.” In conclusion, Baxter adds, “We believe the infrastructure for compostable bioplastics is critical to the future of our economy, our health, and our planet. That’s why we are on a mission to build it in a way that is scalable and cost competitive.”

HPE to acquire Juniper Networks to accelerate AI-driven innovation

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) influencer group first contacted me in the mid-2010s through the Aruba networking group. I was the independent industrial IoT writer at the time. The scope broadened for a time, then they closed the influencer group a couple of years ago. But I’ve maintained a bit of a connection to HPE networking, as well as its software and high-end hardware groups.

I’m not an analyst of this part of the market, but I’d have to say this is not a surprising acquisition. HPE has been pretty aggressive under CEO Antonio Neri. They usually do pretty well at integrating acquisitions. This acquisition of Juniper Networks should be a boost.

From the news release in brief:

  • Highly complementary combination enhances secure, unified, cloud and AI-native networking to drive innovation from edge to cloud to exascale
  • Accelerates long-term revenue growth and expands gross and operating margin; Expected to be accretive to non-GAAP EPS and free cash flow in year 1, post close
  • Advances HPE’s portfolio mix shift toward higher-growth solutions and strengthens high-margin networking business 

Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Juniper Networks, a leader in AI-native networks, announced January 9 that the companies have entered a definitive agreement under which HPE will acquire Juniper in an all-cash transaction for $40.00 per share, representing an equity value of approximately $14 billion.

The combination of HPE and Juniper advances HPE’s portfolio mix shift toward higher-growth solutions and strengthens its high-margin networking business, accelerating HPE’s sustainable profitable growth strategy. The transaction is expected to be accretive to non-GAAP EPS and free cash flow in the first year post close.

The acquisition is expected to double HPE’s networking business, creating a new networking leader with a comprehensive portfolio that presents customers and partners with a compelling new choice to drive business value.

Combining HPE and Juniper’s complementary portfolios supercharges HPE’s edge-to-cloud strategy with an ability to lead in an AI-native environment based on a foundational cloud-native architecture. 

Upon completion of the transaction, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim will lead the combined HPE networking business, reporting to HPE President and CEO Antonio Neri.

Where do profits come from?

Boeing is a company that has lost its way. I have no idea why the board has not sacked the CEO. The 737MAX  program was a fiasco and continues to haunt the company. The 787 program ran way behind schedule costing the company billions. This is what happens when you ignore product and serving customers instead focusing solely on financial numbers. We are a business company not an engineering company, said one Boeing CEO. How right he was. They can’t build an airplane anymore. But they can still count, I guess.

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Former Emerson Process Leader Publishes Book

John Berra, former chairman of Emerson Process and the leader who assembled that group, once told me in an interview that he wished someone would write a book about the early days and development of automated process control. If he wad hinting for me, I was the wrong person. More likely it would have been my colleague Walt Boyes. But instead, John has written a book that will be out March 5—Turning the Giant: Disrupting Your Business with Persistent Innovation. I’m glad he did.

I’ve not read the book, yet, but I have it on order. I enjoyed all my interviews with Berra over the years. He was always cerebral, knowledgeable, and visionary. And I discovered at one of my last Emerson events with him that he also played Bellomy (the father of the girl) in community theater production of The Fantasticks. I played that role in the early 70s in Sidney, Ohio. He also wrote a column for me when I was at Automation World after he retired.

My old friend Jim Cahill wrote about the book on his Emerson Process Experts blog—worth a read.

I was fortunate to get an advanced look at John Berra’s new book Turning the Giant: Disrupting Your Business with Persistent Innovation (slated for release on March 5, 2024). John is the Past Chairman of Emerson’s automation business and was President of the Systems business during the development of the DeltaV control system. I read it this past weekend and really enjoyed it because I got to live through many of the stories he shares throughout the book and better see the events from his perspective.

Digital Twin and Simulation Technology Power Business and Decision Strategies

I had to wade through a lot of marketing to get to the core of this news from a company that I don’t know. The company is FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation). Founded in 1956 (almost as old as me), it’s a business analytics, data science, predictive analytics company. Of interest to us is work in supply chain resiliency.

The company announced more than 20 enhancements to its Platform

The updates include robust innovations in digital simulations. One of the most significant updates is within the Digital Twin and Simulation capability, which enables users of FICO Platform to create an enterprise digital twin of their organization and unlock the power of business simulations. This allows businesses to experiment across many dimensions, not previously possible, to find optimal business outcomes. Updates include faster deployment for increased efficiency, thorough validation of changes to decision strategies, and better understanding of the impact on business KPIs such as profitability metrics.

Among the 20+ enhancements, key improvements to FICO Platform include:

  • Data Connection and Ingestion – Our latest data-focused enhancements aim to break down organizational siloes and put data into motion with improved data pipelines, a high-performance hotlist service, enriched data feature libraries, and an easy-to-use database service.
  • Applied Analytics & ML and Enterprise Optimization – These updates are focused on enhancing clients’ ability to build world-class predictive credit analytics and ML models, pull in third party models, and apply mathematical optimization to new domains. This release includes improvements to our proprietary segmented scorecards, multi-target scorecards, reject inference, Python APIs, ML execution and optimization solver performance enhancements, and the launch of a new global optimization solver.
  • Intelligent Decisions and Business Composability – This release supports lifecycle management for fine-grained control to easily manage and promote projects from design, staging, and production for even the most complex enterprise environments with better isolation to compress and safely scale change cycles. Additional enhancements provide deeper native integration with other FICO capabilities for applied analytics & ML and simulation so teams can work efficiently across the entire decision intelligence value chain.
  • Digital Twins and Simulation – In this space we dive deeper into the development of a digital twin for businesses to enable experimentation within our Simulation Capability. Our latest release makes it easy for business staff to rapidly construct new business scenarios, pressure test possible changes, validate strategies, and simulate the effects on business KPIs to easily measure operational impact and move fast with confidence.

ABB Acquires Sevensense AI-enabled Mobile Robotics

• Swiss start-up Sevensense, a leader in AI-based navigation, enables the highest levels of speed, accuracy and autonomy of mobile robots, one of the fastest growing robotics markets

• Acquisition underlines ABB’s strategic investment focus on innovative AI solutions transforming industries, such as logistics and manufacturing

• ABB becomes leader in next-generation AMRs, integrating Visual SLAM technology with leading hardware and software portfolio

This is the significant trend of 2024 for major automation companies—acquisitions for innovation and market expansion. ABB already has a strong robotic presence. This should be good for them. Expanding the idea of automation assisting humans, here is a statement from the ABB Robotics President.

“This marks a significant step towards our vision of a workplace where AI-enabled robots assist people, addressing our customers’ needs for greater flexibility and intelligence amidst critical skilled labor shortages,” said Sami Atiya, President of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation. “Each mobile robot, equipped with vision and AI, scans a unique part of the building; collectively these robots complement each other’s view to form a complete map, enabling them to work autonomously in a rapidly changing environment.”

Sevensense’s pioneering navigation technology combines AI and 3D vision, enabling AMRs to make intelligent decisions, differentiating between fixed and mobile objects in dynamic environments. Once manually guided, mobile robots with Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (Visual SLAM) technology create a map that is used to operate independently, reducing commissioning time from weeks to days and enabling the AMRs to navigate in highly complex, dynamic environments alongside people. Maps are constantly updated and shared across the fleet, offering instant scalability without interrupting operations and greater flexibility compared to other navigation technologies. 

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