{MorningStar} ABS Research - PACE Regulatory Roadmap -- California Laws Promote Consumer Protections

February 2018

 Morningstar Perspective

As property assessed clean energy programs have expanded across the U.S., the industry has come under increasing scrutiny regarding consumer protections. California, the location of PACE’s birthplace, is the first state to pass legislation aimed at increasing consumer protections. Morningstar Credit Ratings, LLC believes that the California measures, which include regulatory oversight through an independent agency, improved underwriting guidelines based on a property owner’s ability to repay, and prohibitions of activities that might lead to a conflict of interest, will collectively strengthen underwriting practices.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law both Assembly Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 242 on Oct. 4, 2017. Even though the new legislation is specific to California, Morningstar would not be surprised to see program administrators adopt these new measures on a nationwide basis, as California is a leading PACE market. We also view most of the requirements as a credit positive for future securitized residential PACE assessments. In the appendix, we have provided a snapshot of the credit impact on the key provisions contained in the two California bills. However, California is not done with revising PACE legislation, as there are three other bills that were introduced in the state’s Assembly and Senate this month to provide more clarity and promote further data transparency.

Federal Level

Before examining California’s recent legislation, we note there are two bills in the works at the federal level. In November, Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho introduced the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. This bill would empower the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to study PACE credit transactions and possibly include PACE assessments under certain regulations related to the Truth in Lending Act of 1968. The bill has garnered support, and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held hearings in January. The bill is on the Senate Legislative calendar for consideration. In April, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas introduced the Protecting Americans from Credit Entanglements Act of 2017, which includes PACE assessments under certain provisions of the Truth in Lending Act, but the bill appears to have stalled.

California Regulatory Oversight

While AB 1284 and SB 242 both introduce numerous requirements intended to strengthen consumer protections and improve overall business practices, Morningstar identifies regulatory oversight as a major development. The new legislation gives the California Department of Business Oversight the authority to regulate PACE program administrators. Having an agency that can bring enforcement actions against program administrators will help reinforce good business practices. Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the department will issue licenses to program administrators, which will have to comply with similar requirements to those of California finance lenders. In addition, program administrators will be required to submit semiannual reports, including methodologies, assumptions, volume, delinquencies, missed payments, and defaults. The collection of this discrete assessment information will, for the first time, offer data transparency for the investor community and help identify important credit trends. Over time, we would expect to use the historical data as a basis to help us formulate our credit assumptions.

Improved Underwriting Guidelines and Disclosure

Evaluating a property owner’s ability to repay is another key measure. The Department of Business Oversight will determine the metrics to measure a property owner’s ability to repay, which may include income, assets, and current debt obligations, whereas current eligibility is largely based on home equity. This more vigorous examination of a property owner’s ability to repay commences on April 1, 2018, and will likely lead to a lengthier underwriting and approval process or possibly even a decline in origination volume as fewer property owners will qualify. A complete financial profile will be collected from the property owner and will include all secured and unsecured debt, ranging from alimony, child support, and monthly housing expenses. Full disclosure of outstanding obligations and the more vigorous screening process will result in a better assessment of a property owner’s ability to meet the PACE obligation.

In addition, the program administrator shall obtain oral confirmation regarding whether the property owner has received or is seeking additional PACE assessments before a property owner executes an assessment contract. This is an important disclosure as a property owner currently has no statutory obligation to reveal other outstanding or intended PACE obligations. On the residential side, such disclosures will help program administrators more accurately assess a property owner’s ability to repay the PACE obligation. It’s important to note, however, that this is less relevant concerning commercial PACE because a property owner usually obtains the consent of the lender before engaging in a PACE assessment.

AB 1284

Morningstar believes many of the new requirements introduced in AB 1284 are credit positive. Some requirements commence on April 1, 2018, and others begin on Jan. 1, 2019. The most significant of them are the following:

Regulatory Oversight – The California Department of Business Oversight will issue licenses to program administrators starting Jan. 1, 2019. In addition, program administrators will be required to file an annual report. This will incentivize stronger business practices.

Improved Underwriting Standards – Commencing April 1, 2018, program administrators are required to use at least three third-party automated valuation model vendors that employ rigorous statistical measures. Program administrators must use the property value with the highest confidence score or an average if there is none. In addition, program administrators are also required to evaluate specific underwriting criteria and must incorporate a property owner’s debt obligations when determining the owner’s ability to repay. This includes all secured and unsecured debt, alimony, child support, and monthly housing expenses. The financing must be for less than 15% of the property’s value, up to the first $700,000, including any existing assessments. For properties valued above $700,000, the financing will include the 15% rule, but it drops to less than 10% for the remaining value of the property above the $700,000 threshold. Finally, total PACE assessments and mortgage-related debt on the property will not exceed 97% of the property’s market value. These new guidelines should result in better assessment quality.

Assessment Contract Criteria – Certain checks, such as ensuring all property taxes are current and financing limits are upheld, must be met before a program administrator approves an assessment contract. These checks help to promote higher quality underwriting.

Background Checks – PACE providers will have to go through background checks and satisfy net worth requirements to get a license. This higher level of scrutiny and minimum financial requirements will help improve the quality of the PACE provider.

PACE Registry – Program administrators may be required to use a real-time registry or database system for tracking PACE assessments. No later than Jan. 1, 2020, the commissioner of the Department of Business Oversight shall determine whether to proceed with a rulemaking action to require this change. If implemented, this will increase transparency and allow for the collection of data for performance metrics.

Minimum Training Requirements for Contractors – Program administrators must train home improvement contractors and their respective salespeople. Major program administrators already have such measures, but the requirement will be good for the smaller players who do not have formalized programs. Establishing these minimum training requirements across the industry will not only help promote a higher level of expertise, but also it will help avoid misrepresentation by these parties.

SB 242

Like AB 1284, many of the requirements in SB 242 are positive for the quality of future PACE assessments:

Oversight – A program administrator must submit semiannual reports to the respective city or municipality for each PACE program. Information includes methodologies, assumptions, volume, and assessment information, such as delinquencies, missed payments, and defaults. This allows for more transparency and collection of data for performance metrics.

Required Phone Confirmation of Key Terms - The program administrator must make a verbal confirmation of the key terms. The phone calls supplement the required written disclosure of full PACE terms. This practice helps to ensure that the property owner has a full understanding of the terms, which promotes higher assessment quality.

Property Owner Disclosure – A program administrator shall get oral confirmation about whether the property owner has received or is seeking additional PACE assessments. Because this practice determines whether existing PACE assessments are outstanding, cash flow analysis is improved.

No First Payment Deferrals – A program administrator cannot waive or defer the first payment, and a property owner’s first assessment payment is due no later than a year after the installation of the efficiency improvement is completed. This promotes timely payments.

Suitability/Right to Cancel –A property owner can cancel the contractual assessment at any time before midnight on the third business day. This consumer advocacy measure helps to promote owner suitability and a full understanding of the terms.

No Conflict of Interest Advertising – A contractor or other third party cannot advertise the availability of an assessment contract from a program administrator. This control helps to ensure that good business practices are being followed and minimizes the opportunity for fraud.

No Contractor/Customer Kickbacks – A program administrator cannot provide direct or indirect cash payments or anything of material value to a contractor or third party that is more than the actual price charged to the property owner. Likewise, a program administrator cannot provide direct or indirect cash payments or anything of material value to a property owner to obtain an assessment contract. These restrictions will help reduce incidences of fraud.

No Price Differentials – A contractor cannot provide a different price for a project financed by a PACE assessment versus if the upgrade was paid in cash by the property owner. Again, this measure helps to reduce fraud.

Protection of Consumer Information – A program administrator cannot provide information to contractors that discloses specific information that relates to the property owner or the property (for example, how much the property owner may qualify for). The protection of such information promotes good business practices and minimizes the potential for contractors to inflate home improvement measures based solely on financial ability rather than based on actual property needs.

Limits Tax Advice – A program administrator, contractor, or other third party cannot make any representation as to the tax deductibility of an assessment contract, unless consistent with state and federal law. While this is a good business practice, we view this as credit neutral because there are exceptions. Property owners may want to seek independent tax advice.

Commencement of Work Guidelines/Property Restoration – It is unlawful for the contractor to begin work under a home improvement contract if the property owner entered into the contract believing that the work would be covered by the PACE program and the property owner cancels the PACE financing within three days. In addition, a contractor who violates the guideline above must also restore the property to its original condition and return any money, property, or other consideration back to the property owner. These measures help to protect the consumer and promote good business practices for the contractor, but we view them as credit neutral because assessment quality may vary.

 Other Legislative Proposals in California

PACE continues to be on the mind of the California legislature as three bills were introduced in February of this year. Each bill seeks to revise the existing PACE laws by providing additional clarity, promoting data transparency, and in some cases seem to overlap. If signed into law, these bills will further increase consumer protections, allow more latitude in oversight, and have a positive effect on the industry. AB 2063, which was introduced into the California State Assembly on Feb. 7, proposes lengthening the document retention of information related to the PACE assessments to five years after the assessment is extinguished from three years and requiring the commissioner of the Department of Business Oversight to include the program administrator reports on PACE assessment contracts in the annual composite reporting.

Similarly, AB 2150 was introduced on Feb. 12 and also seeks to have the commissioner include program administrator reports on PACE assessment contracts as part of the annual composite reporting. On this same day, SB 1087 was also introduced into the California State Senate. In addition to other revisions, the bill proposes requiring program administrators to maintain their processes and practices in writing, requiring that the appraisal for a property’s market value be independent, and allowing the commissioner to bring an order against a party without first having to file a report about the respective violation.

 Positive Developments for Credit

Morningstar believes that regulatory oversight, improved underwriting, and disclosure guidelines aimed at better evaluating a property owner’s ability to repay will help to increase consumer protections and promote good business practices across the broader industry, with generally positive effects on credit. We believe these measures will have greater reach beyond California. Program administrators will most likely adopt similar practices across the country and look to how the state addresses future legislation as a blueprint.

Appendix – Morningstar’s Credit View on AB 1284 and SB 242

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Copyright © 2018 by Morningstar Credit Ratings, LLC (“Morningstar”). All rights reserved. This report is not intended to serve as a commentary on the criteria or methodology of credit ratings issued by Morningstar. Reproduction or transmission in whole or in part is prohibited except by permission from Morningstar. The information and opinions contained herein have been obtained or derived from sources Morningstar believed to be reliable. However, Morningstar cannot guarantee the accuracy and completeness of the information or of opinions based on the information. Morningstar is not an auditor and, it does not and cannot in every instance independently verify or validate information used in preparation of this report or any opinions contained herein. THE INFORMATION AND OPINIONS ARE PROVIDED “AS IS” AND NOT SUBJECT TO ANY GUARANTIES OR ANY WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR USE. Morningstar shall not be responsible for any damages or other losses resulting from, or related to, the use of this report or any information or opinions contained herein. The information and opinions herein are provided for information purposes only and are not statements of fact or recommendations to purchase, hold, or sell any securities or make any other investment decisions. Your use of this report is further governed by Morningstar’s Terms of Use located at https://ratingagency.morningstar.com/MCR/about-us/terms-of-use.

By Stephanie K. Mah - Director of Strategy and Research at Morningstar

By Phoebe Xu - Senior Vice President at Morningstar

{Renew Financial Press Release} DBRS Releases New Report Showing “Very Low” Residential PACE Delinquency Rates, Consistently Below Those of All Homeowners

Statement by Renew Financial CEO Cisco DeVries on New PACE Data from Leading Credit Ratings Agency

OAKLAND, Calif., Feb. 22, 2018 – Today, the DBRS credit ratings agency released a new report that shows delinquency rates for residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) properties in California are “very low” and consistently below the overall property tax delinquency rates for all homeowners. The report also found that the delinquency rate for PACE declines to nearly zero in 12 – 18 months, after almost every homeowner pays his or her semi-annual property tax bill.

The available data in the report “shows strong performance with very low delinquency levels around 2% to 4% at the peak declining to less than 1% within 12 months,” according to the report authors. “PACE delinquency metrics are lower than general aggregate property tax and single-family residential only property tax delinquency levels. PACE also shows consistent performance and very low volatility across tax years.”

“This report shows that PACE is working well for American families,” said Cisco DeVries, CEO of Renew Financial. “We've put consumer protections at the heart of our company since our founding. The very low delinquency rates in this report show that PACE financing is a great way to safely and effectively make important home improvements. And new consumer protections and oversight will only make PACE – already one of the most successful energy efficiency financing programs in history – even better for homeowners.”

This report comes after California enacted new consumer protections and industry standards that make one of the most successful energy-efficiency financing programs in history markedly better. 

Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed two new bills into law that create a comprehensive consumer protection, underwriting and regulatory framework for Property Assessed Clean Energy. Two companion pieces of legislation – AB 1284 and SB 242 – are the result of a year of development and negotiations among real estate professionals, local governments, environmental and clean-energy groups, the banking industry, and private sector PACE administrators aimed at improving PACE by strengthening consumer protections. These laws went into effect on January 1, 2018.

About Renew Financial
Renew Financial Group LLC (“Renew Financial”) is one of the nation's leading home improvement financing companies. Renew Financial administers and provides multiple financing products across the country, with programs available in several states, including Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs operating in California and Florida. PACE is a financing tool enabled by state and local governments that provides homeowners and business owners with access to private capital to finance the entire cost of renewable energy, energy efficiency, water conservation, seismic, and wind mitigation upgrades, and then pay for those upgrades on their property tax bill. PACE was named by Scientific American as one of the "top 20 ideas that can change the world." PACE is a job-creating policy tool that enjoys broad support, having been championed in state legislatures and local communities nationwide by business leaders, advocacy organizations and elected officials from both sides of the aisle.

By Cisco DeVries of Renew Financial

{MENAFN.COM} Healthy Snacks Market to Witness Exponential Growth Owing to Increased Demand for Convenience Food | Industry Insights 2017-2022


(MENAFN Editorial) Healthy Snacks Market Information by Source (Grains and Pulses, Vegetable, Fruit, Dried Fruit, and Others), by Nutrition per Serving (Low Fat, Free of Trans-Fat, Sugar Free and Others), and by Region - Forecast To 2022 Healthy Snack Market Overview

The increasing popularity of snacks among the young population has boosted the global healthy snack market. Market Research Future, a firm which specializes in market reports related to the Food, Beverages & Nutrition sector among others, recently forecasted in its report on Global Healthy Snack Market Research Report- Forecast to 2023 that the market will demonstrate an exceptional CAGR % while achieving million dollar growth readily in the forecast period.

People are demanding varieties in snacks which are healthy to eat; this has encouraged companies to launch new products. Several companies have been announcing the launch of healthy products with new tastes, flavors, and shapes to maintain their competitiveness in the market. Moreover, customers' increasing inclination towards healthy ingredients in snack is compelling the healthy snack companies to innovate their products for customer retention.

Earlier snacks were considered as a break time light food. However, in the recent times people have been increasingly eating them between the meals. Snacks are being considered as fourth meal of the day in the U.S. Americans are forerunners amongst the snack eaters between the meals as they love to snack everywhere from theater, to workplace, to car, and even on the subway. This trend has a wide impact over the global healthy snack market owing to changing consumer preference towards healthy diet. Additionally, consumers are likely to shift towards healthy ingredients in snack products owing to aided health support associated with the consumption.

Furthermore, healthy snacks with ingredients such as fiber and high protein content beneficial in improving digestion are supporting the market growth. Additionally, ongoing R & D activities in healthy snack to add up healthy ingredients for better nutritional support are adding fuel in the growth of Healthy Snack market.

Latest Industry Updates

  • Oct-2017 L T Foods launched its premium rice based snacks brand Kari Kari in India. This product launch will attract huge consumers looking forward for healthy snacks. Also, the company is highly focused on technological advancement for new product launch.
  • Oct 2017 Danone India Pvt. launched its new product portfolio of nutrition and dairy products meant for the healthy snack market in India. The new product protinex byte which is a protein multigrain biscuit meant for office-going consumers looking for a healthy snack on the go. The company is focused on new product launch with introducing nutritional and healthy ingredients in its wide range of snack products.
  • Sep 2017 Whitworths company added to its growing snacking portfolio with the launch of new range alternative to healthy snacks. The company is highly motivated towards new product launches to meet up increasing consumer demands.
  • Mar 2017 Bare Snacks, creator of delicious Snacks Gone Simple, launched its innovative new snack line, bare Chia Coconut Bites, which would be available in three crave-ably crunchy flavors including Chia + Vanilla, Chia + Pineapple and Chia + Flax. Growing consumer demand for healthy snacks has pushed the company to come with innovative and healthier products.
  • Healthy Snack Market - Competitive Analysis


    The companies are rigorously involved in R & D activities to launch their new products. LT foods and Bare snacks have launched number of new products in healthy snacks range. New product launch from these companies to differentiate their product line from their competitors is the key strategy followed by theses comapnies. Most of the product launched by these companies are blended which nutritive ingredients with added taste and flavors. Also, the Kellogg Company is readily involved in strategic product launches in healthy snack segment. Majority of the players in the spices market are concentrated in the European region in terms of supply. Additionally, companies are more focused more on introducing new ingredients for healthy snack products. The key players profiled in healthy Snack are as Mountain house, snack naturally, jummybo, the good grocer, custom varietea, plenty 4 you, food hot issue, bare fruit, Quakers, Sincerely Nuts, and Harmony House Foods.

    Healthy Snack Market Segments

    The global healthy snack market has been divided into source, nutrition, and region.


  • On the Basis of Source: Grains and Pulses, Vegetable, Fruit, Dried Fruit, and Others
  • On the Basis of Nutrition: Low Fat, Free of Trans-Fat, Sugar Free and Others
  • On the Basis of Region: North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and ROW.
  • Healthy Snack Market - Regional Analysis


    The global healthy snack market is segmented into North America, Europe, APAC, and Rest of the World (RoW). Europe is dominating among all the regions owing to changing consumer perception regarding snack among the youth. The younger population is looking forward for higher nutritive support from the snacks, which is considered to be the major driving factor in this region. Additionally, wide range offerings in healthy snacks are anticipated to the uplift the overall market in this region.


    Browse Report @

    Furthermore, growing food & beverage product manufacturing in developing countries such as China and India associated with cheap and skilled workers is predicted to surge the level of production. Additionally, increased demand from the food industry in Asia Pacific region is likely to uplift the market growth over review period.

By Akash Anand for MENAFN.com


Encycle Corp Logo.png

Company Broadens Reach of its Swarm LogicÒ Service

September 6, 2017

For Immediate Release

San Marcos, CA, and Toronto, ON. Encycle Corporation announces that two well-known and respected energy management industry executives have joined the company’s sales team. Encycle is a technologyenabled solution provider delivering significant energy savings to commercial and industrial customers through patented IoT-based HVAC control technology.

Chris Hensley has joined the firm as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Brad Rittler has joined Chris’ team as Vice President of Channel Sales and Development. Hensley brings Encycle 20+ years of energy business development experience, most recently as Senior Director of Sales for Ecova. Hensley has also held energy leadership roles at Novar (a Honeywell company) and FirstEnergy Solutions. Hensley’s key responsibilities will include accelerating the company’s sales and marketing roadmap, expanding client relationships and new business development.

“It is exciting to join a highly entrepreneurial and innovative company such as Encycle,” Hensley commented. “I have worked with Encycle’s target customer base over the past 20 years, and Encycle’s unique patented solution provides dramatic energy savings using a cloud-based business model that delivers exceptional returns to our clients with little to no capital requirements. It is rare for a gamechanging technology to be successfully introduced into the century-old HVAC industry, but Encycle has done it. I can’t wait to spread the word.”

Rittler is Encycle’s new Vice President of Channel Sales and Development. He came to Encycle from Echelon Corporation, where he was Global Sales Director, Strategic Accounts – IoT. Rittler also has several years of sales and channel management experience with Honeywell. 

Rittler said, “It is apparent to me that the Swarm technology will provide a revolutionary change in the optimization of HVAC operations, much like the dramatic impact LEDs have had on the reduction of energy usage in the lighting industry. The company has already launched programs with several large channel partners, and we are establishing additional partnerships at a rapid pace with highly successful enterprises that provide IoT platforms, monitoring services and energy management systems.” “

Both Chris and Brad bring a tremendous amount of direct experience to expand the rapid adoption of our patented Swarm Logic energy management solutions,” noted Encycle CEO Robert Chiste. “Just a year ago, Swarm Logic was being leveraged at some 40 million square feet of commercial and industrial facilities. Today, we have agreements in place to expand to more than 250 million square feet. Under Chris’ and Brad’s leadership, I am confident that Encycle will be embedded as the HVAC optimization solution in over one billion square feet of facilities in the near future.” 


Encycle Corp. is focused on empowering commercial and industrial customers to achieve dramatic improvements in the efficiency of their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The company’s game-changing, multi-patented Swarm Logic energy management technology is at the heart of the company’s solution set. Swam Logic establishes a wireless network among HVAC rooftop units (RTUs) and enables them to communicate among themselves autonomously instead of operating in isolation as they’ve done in the past. This connected group of RTUs adopts the Swarm intelligence to self-organize, synchronize and respond holistically through a cloud-based algorithm that red-flags unnecessary consumption and automatically optimizes electricity usage by controlling the aggregated whole as one unified, coordinated group.

By Ginger Juhl for Encycle Coproration

{Encycle} HVAC Visibility Insights Help to Lower Costs, Improve Sustainability

HVAC units are not only among the largest electricity consuming loads in buildings – typically about 40% – but they also represent the loads that are most likely to suffer from both scheduling inefficiencies and mechanical faults. It is therefore important to facility operators, energy analysts and finance personnel alike that HVAC loads are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible to ensure optimal cooling with the least cost and environmental impact.

One might think that monitoring occupant complaints would be a sufficient method to know if something is amiss with HVAC loads; however, this assumption is incorrect for a number of reasons:

If HVAC loads are operating well before or after occupants are at work in different zones of a building, they would never realize that such waste is occurring.

In large, open areas, if one of the HVAC units is functioning poorly, its neighbors may “pick up the slack” by working more aggressively to compensate for the faulty unit. The other HVAC units then must work more than would be normally required to maintain the setpoint temperature. These and other HVAC faults typically only become apparent under extreme heat conditions, such as during summer heat waves when HVAC technicians are already at their busiest, dealing with a flood of emergency repair requests.

Occupants may not always communicate faults to the appropriate facilities personnel, leaving faults unknown until the next round of preventive maintenance occurs. By then, energy and money have been wasted, and further damage may have occurred.

Finally, there is a quandary that facility managers often encounter, where two people standing side by side have two different opinions about whether they’re comfortable or not. Consider a theater employee working at a desk compared to one who just finished vacuuming hallways for an hour. Who is more likely to complain that it’s too hot? So, you may be able to please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but never all of the people all of the time. For this conundrum, we have no solution, but greater insight into HVAC operation can – and will – create an opportunity to achieve the best possible results.

The Devil is in the Details

Valuable insights can be gleaned by understanding exactly what certain loads are doing under different circumstances. These insights are gained by determining when the loads are – or are not – using electricity, compared to what is expected. This applies to both the entire class of loads, as well as to individual loads.

Relying solely on utility meter data is insufficient in achieving the insights needed because it provides data only about the building as a whole, not to mention the fact that just obtaining the data can be an awkward procedure. And while some utilities are embracing the Green Button data initiative, adoption is still rare across the U.S. and Canada, and even then, it cannot provide load-specific data. The optimal method of monitoring HVAC loads is to meter each one, known variously as disaggregation, disambiguation or simply sub-metering.

Sub-metering + demand management = Synergy That Works

Historically, solutions that provide only sub-metering functionality tend to be more expensive than the value they generate simply in terms of scheduling and maintenance efficiencies. However, marrying a sub-metering solution with one that also provides scheduling and demand management/demand response functionality is an ideal way to bundle the benefits into a cost-effective package.

Some energy analysis systems try to infer what specific loads are doing without directly metering these loads. Such systems attempt to discern some form of “signature” in the overall stream of meter data in an attempt to identify specific appliances, although such systems are unable to distinguish multiple instances of the same load (e.g., three HVAC units of the same make and model at one location). Thus, these types of systems have only been applied to residential settings rather than commercial buildings, where this inferential approach has the possibility of discerning different loads. However, even in this rather limited scenario, its utility and payback are rather questionable. So, let’s focus on the higher utility cost – and therefore higher potential value – of insights into the operation of HVAC loads at commercial and industrial buildings rather than residences.

Sub-metering could take many forms depending on the data desired. The value in sub-metered data lies in understanding when a load is operating and how much electricity it demands under these circumstances. Several metrics can be monitored when sub-metering electricity usage; for example, kW (true power), kVA (apparent power), kVAR (power factor), voltage and frequency.

Keep in mind that the more metrics that are desired, the more expensive the metering solution. In many cases, simply measuring kW provides a wealth of information just by answering the questions of “when” and “how much” posed above.

A reasonable frequency to report sub-metered HVAC loads, balanced against the overhead of gathering, transmitting and storing the data, is usually in terms of aggregated five-minute periods. Monitoring at much more frequent increments may provide slightly more insights into exactly when such loads transition operation (e.g. exactly when a second stage compressor started once the first stage was already running), but such information can typically be gleaned even from five-minute buckets. In some cases, even aggregating across 15-minute periods can provide sufficient insight into how an HVAC load is operating.

Now that we have identified the desire to examine HVAC load electrical demand and consumption across different time interval periods, what insights can be gleaned?

Understanding HVAC Behavior

Our goal is to both confirm expected behavior as well as identify anomalies for both the group as well as for individual loads. So, let’s examine a sampling of such behaviors and how sub-metered HVAC load data provides facility managers and energy analysts with the data that can allow them to determine if corrective measures are required.

Examining daily peaks: By aggregating HVAC loads and examining when they peak, potential issues can be identified. For example, one would expect that theaters will peak during their busiest times; e.g., Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. If HVAC loads peak during mornings on those days, it may indicate inappropriate scheduling of loads, which is causing them to start cooling far too soon -- or with initial occupancy setpoints that are far too aggressive. Instead, one could slowly ease HVAC loads into operation, shifting peaks to later in the afternoons or early evenings (and then use demand management solutions to help reduce such peaks). Such analysis can also be performed on individual HVAC loads to identify problems if only a few loads are starting too early or running too late in the day.

Examining each HVAC load’s operation over time, particularly in baseline mode of operation (i.e., no demand management controls are in play), can lead to the analysis of properly operating versus faulty HVAC loads. For example, over the duration of days with warm temperatures, noting HVAC loads that only indicate blower activity could indicate either broken compressors or setpoint overrides that are far too warm for normal conditions. Similarly, on cooler days, seeing HVAC loads that peak out during the day when free cooling – or no cooling – is required could indicate that maintenance is needed to correct a faulty economizer damper or an unnecessarily aggressive low set point.

Examining when HVAC loads operate can lead to confirming reasonable scheduling – or indicate scheduling errors. For example, noting loads that operate overnight when the building is unoccupied, especially those that not only operate blowers but also compressors, immediately indicates potential schedule optimizations in terms of tightening up overnight activity. In some cases, such loads may need to operate at reduced levels during unoccupied mode; e.g., venting kitchen areas or allowing cooling for overnight cleaning/stocking crews, since having insight into correct HVAC operation is important for personnel safety and comfort.

Examining the maximum demand of HVAC loads can lead to confirming reasonable operation of these loads.

For example, under hot weather conditions, HVAC loads occasionally require all stages of cooling. If, over the course of weeks of such weather, some loads are observed to only be consuming a portion of their expected maximum demand, say, only 60%, this likely implies that the load’s upper stage or stages are never operating. This could be simply due to the setpoint being so high that upper stages are never requested, and the zone is then not being cooled sufficiently, or perhaps the upper stage compressors are not functioning due to a variety of mechanical faults. Regardless of the reason, simply monitoring peak load anomalies identifies problems that require investigation.

The analysis that sub-metering provides is especially useful if available remotely over the web; i.e., without the need to visit the site and extract the data from a building automation system (if one even exists at the site). Web-based reporting means that reports can be generated and made available as frequently – or as infrequently – as desired, depending on the preferences of the personnel involved.

Encycle provides such HVAC visibility reporting services using the sub-metered data inherent in its Swarm Logic® demand management solution, which is widely used by commercial, industrial and institutional building customers. For more information, please visit encycle.com.

By Mark Kerbel of Encycle Corporation

{BrightFarms Press Release} BRIGHTFARMS #235 ON INC. 500

Local Produce Market Leader One of Fastest Growing Companies in America

New York, NY, August 16, 2017 - BrightFarms is proud to announce its inclusion in the 36th annual Inc. 500, ranking # 235 among America’s fastest growing private companies, solidifying its position as the leader in sustainable local produce for supermarkets.

The Inc. 500 is a comprehensive list of high growth private companies across the U.S., and has previously featured some of America’s most recognizable food brands, including Door to Door Organics, Clif Bar and Chobani.

“I am pleased for my colleagues to enjoy being recognized among the top 500 fastest growing companies in the United States,” said Paul Lightfoot, CEO of BrightFarms. “Our long-term growth is driven by the success of our model to satisfy the rising demand for local produce in the nation’s leading food retailers.  We’re thankful to our partners, particularly Giant Food (Ahold), Mariano’s (Kroger), Acme (Albertsons) and McCaffrey’s, for their commitment to bringing consumers fresher, local produce.”

BrightFarms is ranked 10th among all food companies on the Inc. 500 and is the only produce company to be included in the list.

BrightFarms operates three commercial greenhouse farms across the country—Rochelle, IL.; Culpeper, VA.; and Bucks County, PA., will soon break ground on its Clinton County, OH. greenhouse and with plans to open another 10-15 greenhouses in the next three to four years. For more information, visit www.inc.com/inc5000.

About BrightFarms

BrightFarms grows local produce, nationwide. BrightFarms finances, builds, and operates local greenhouse farms in partnership with supermarkets, cities, capital sources, and vendors, enabling it to quickly and efficiently eliminate time, distance, and costs from the food supply chain. BrightFarms’ growing methods, a model for the future of scalable, sustainable local farming, uses far less energy, land and water than conventional agriculture. Fast Company recognizes BrightFarms as “One of World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies” and one of the “Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Food” in the world.  For more information, please visit www.brightfarms.com.

By Amrit Nijjer for BrightFarms

{Encycle) BIOMIMICRY: What it is, how it can change the world, and you could benefit

Biomimicry might simply be described as “learning from nature,” but since biomimicry has many layers of simplicity and complexity, let’s preface this discussion with some context as to how biomimicry fits within the closely-related concepts of emergence theory and swarm intelligence.

Emergence theory, or simply “emergence,” can be described as a process whereby novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties arise during the phenomenon of self-organization that occurs spontaneously in complex systems. In explaining emergence, the terms macro-level and micro-level are often used, where the macro-level refers to the level at which novel emergent phenomena arise out of the components and processes occurring at the micro-level1.

More Than the Sum of the Parts….

Emergence is a natural phenomenon whereby larger entities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities such that the larger entities exhibit properties that are exhibited by none of its constituent, smaller entities. Termite “cathedral” mounds are often cited as one of numerous examples of emergence found in nature, characterized by organisms that communicate with each other by exchanging small bits of information frequently and which, over time and through mutations, evolve behaviors that are not only efficient for each organism, but more importantly, are effective for the collective’s survival. Decentralized decision making is a key aspect of such emergent systems, where no “master and slave” control structures are required and are, in fact, highly discouraged.

Emergence has also been applied to much more esoteric topics such as understanding the   development of consciousness in brains2. Most scientists and philosophers generally agree that consciousness is not a property that is exhibited by any of the brain’s individual constituent neurons. Yet, when taken as a whole, brains in general–and human brains in particular–exhibit this mysterious phenomenon.

The Power of the Swarm and Self-Organizing Systems

This brings us to the notion of “swarm intelligence,” which is also often explained in terms of emergence theory. Examples of swarm intelligence abound in nature. Ants, bees, termites, geckos, sharks, flocking birds and buffalo herds… these are just a few examples. Surprisingly, even slime mold, which is composed of amoebae that have no “brains,” exhibits an elementary level of intelligence, such as learning to traverse a maze3. The life cycle complexity of the simple amoebae is a scientific curiosity that demonstrates the extremes of nature where swarm intelligence is exhibited.

It is interesting to speculate whether we humans, who are migrating rapidly to larger cities and becoming increasingly connected through the “cloud,” will eventually start exhibiting new and unexpected “swarm intelligence.” This could lead to some interesting consequences for the human species, whose brain size is a compromise between higher intelligence and the food necessary to support our larger brain size.

In fact, human brains are, for mammals of our body size, extraordinarily large, approximately three times the volume of those of chimpanzees and other great apes, the result of an enormous evolutionary expansion of the cerebral cortex during the past two million years. “If you want a big brain, you’ve got to feed it,” points out Todd Preuss of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

If we find ourselves as individuals depending more and more on our swarm intelligence, while at the same time having less food to feed an expanding global population, human brain size may begin to decrease. Interestingly, there are some indications that this is already happening. The growth in the size of our brains actually ceased around 200,000 years ago, and in the past 10,000 to 15,000 years the average size of the human brain compared with our body has shrunk by three or four per cent.

Some see this as no cause for concern. Size, after all, isn’t everything, and it’s perfectly possible that the brain has simply evolved to make more efficient use of its grey and white matter. Others, however, believe rather pessimistically that this shrinkage is a sign of a slight decline in our general mental abilities. David Geary at the University of Missouri-Columbia, for one, believes that as complex societies have developed, the less intelligent are beginning to survive on the backs of their smarter peers, whereas previously they would have died – at least before finding a mate.

Biomimicry: Imitation as a Science

So, let us now consider our entitled subject, “biomimicry.” As the word itself implies, biomimicry is the art and science of mimicking biological systems to our benefit – turning to nature and the processes of natural selection for fresh and creative ideas and solutions.

For those of us interested in the etymology of words, the term “biomimetics” was first introduced by the American biophysicist and mathematician Otto Schmitt, appearing in the title of a paper he published in 19695. By 1974 it had found its way into Webster’s Dictionary. Its derivative term “biomimicry” first appeared in the literature in a paper published in 1982 by Connie Merrill at Rice University6. Biomimicry was later popularized by scientist and author Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Benyus defines biomimicry as a “new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems.” Benyus suggests looking to nature as a “model, measure and mentor” and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry.

Just Look Around You

To understand biomimicry, we don’t really need to understand how emergence or swarm intelligence produced the wonderfully evolved diversity of nature we see around us; we simply need to observe and apply what we see to solving problems. This could be as simple as a hunter mimicking a bird or animal call, or as complex as designing an airplane wing or a bridge.

Learning from the lessons of termites, lotus leaves, coral and honey bees, for example, we are creating everything from more resilient cities, to self-cleaning toilets, eco-friendly cement and energy-efficient air-conditioning systems.

Today there are numerous examples of the successful application of biomimetic principles to engineering problems. A biomimetic approach to problem solving can utilize any facet of biological systems. Examples include Velcro, originally inspired from thistles, and the honeycomb-based structure for aircraft, which was patented by Hugo Junkers in 1915.

Aerodynamic designs have traditionally relied on rather basic principles that emphasize smooth surfaces and sleek lines to maximize lift and minimize drag. However, many species throughout the animal kingdom exhibit shapes that depart from these traditional designs. The Humpback whale, for example, uses bumpy, tubercle fins for propulsion, which runs contrary to traditional hydrodynamic engineering principles. Tests conducted by the U.S. Naval Academy, using model flippers, determined these biomimetic fins reduce drag by nearly a third and improve lift by eight percent overall. Whale Power, a company based in Toronto, Canada, has already capitalized on this latest tubercle technology with biomimetic wind power blades, which purportedly generate the “same amount of power at 10 miles per hour that conventional turbines generate at 17 miles per hour.”

Biomimicry and Smarter, More Efficient Buildings

Applications of biomimicry principles to building facilities include examples such as the Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe, which uses ducts and 48 huge chimneys to passively move hot daytime air out, and the Khoo Teck Puat hospital in Singapore, which includes fins that are built along the walls to channel prevailing winds into the building, thereby enhancing airflow by 20-30 percent.

Biomimicry also plays a key role in the concept and execution of “Living Buildings.” The Living Building Challenge is a green building certification program and sustainable design framework that uses the metaphor of a flower as its ideal because its goal is to create buildings that function as cleanly and efficiently as a flower. A flower creates its own energy from the sun. It collects the water it needs from moisture in its immediate environment, and it does not pollute. One such structure is the Betty and Clint Josey Pavilion, Texas.

The 5,000-square-foot pavilion is a site for meetings and educational events at the Dixon Water Foundation’s Leo Unit in Cooke County. The pavilion was completed in spring 2014, and starting October 1, 2014, the building began a one-year performance evaluation, after which the pavilion was granted certification as Texas’s first Living Building.

Honey Bees and HVAC Efficiency

Of particular interest to us at Encycle® is the application of biomimicry to building automation and control systems. A typical building automation system or “BAS” has a top-down structure with its “brain” located either on site, or connected remotely via the “cloud.” Its client devices and systems, such as lighting, HVAC and refrigeration are either “dumb” or “thin clients” that only respond to instructions transmitted from their control center.

In this paradigm, traditional BASs are the antithesis of swarms and swarm intelligence, which have no central control, and where each participant makes its own individual decisions using simple rules based on the rather limited information available to them. Of course, one can imagine a hybrid system where some degree of decision making is localized as in the swarm model, but with some direction from a central control having more information and more intelligence to process this larger information base. Choosing the best structure is a complex decision that depends on a lot of factors such as installation cost, scalability, robustness, maintainability and efficiency, to name a few.

Applying the biomimicry of honey bees to HVAC control creates a significant paradigm shift, moving from a top-down to a bottomup decision making control system that allows electrical loads to work independently, while at the same time communicating with – and learning from – each other to create simple, yet highly efficient algorithms through which each load understands how to operate efficiently as part of the larger group of rooftop units.

Self-Learning: Evolution at Work

In nature, the “control system” is a bee hive, where the queen bee does not instruct each bee, rather, each bee senses the pheromone trails of others and the hive’s environment, and makes decisions using algorithms evolved over millennia. These efficient decision algorithms are used continuously by each bee, making independent and autonomous decisions that are not only useful for each bee’s survival, but also beneficial for the hive’s survival. The analogy of replacing bees with electrical loads, which broadcasting wireless messages to each that are used to make load decisions of when to operate – and when to not operate – are not only good for each roof top unit, but also good for the building as a whole.

These attributes in fact pertain to HVAC systems with their plurality of roof top units or RTUs. Depending on the size of the building served, an HVAC system may comprise a handful or even scores of RTUs, each serving a particular zone in the system. While orchestrating the operation of dozens of RTUs might seem daunting in a centralized control system, the task becomes easier if each RTU is provided with just the minimum and sufficient intelligence necessary to know the optimum times to turn on and off.

To make prudent decisions, each RTU simply needs to know the conditions in the zone it serves and what decisions have been made or are pending for its neighboring RTUs. Encycle’s bio-inspired Swarm Logic® software can “swarm” and control rooftop units via devices that provide connectivity to these units via communication among small controllers installed on each RTU, using Wi-Fi thermostats or using cloud-based software APIs that enable control of RTUs via third-party building management and building automation systems. Its algorithms allow the controllers to make intelligent decisions on when to enable and disable their respective RTUs. In this case, copying the honey bee has resulted not only in reductions in peak demand and peak demand costs for building managers, but it has also reduced overall electrical bills by 15-25 percent, improved the overall performance of HVAC systems and cut maintenance time and costs.

Leveraging Nature’s Genius

Many years ago, Albert Einstein said, “If we look deep into nature, we will understand everything.” With new sustainability and energy savings benchmarks stretching from countries, to cities, to corporate board rooms and our individual homes, there is no shortage of demand for bio-inspired technology and no end in sight for how such technology can help improve our planet. We will continue to enhance our technology to achieve better results in an ever-growing population of buildings and envision the ongoing evolution of this bio-inspired control strategy as it continues its migration from the rooftop, to the thermostat, to the cloud and beyond.

We’ve only scratched the surface of nature’s infinite potential to provide solutions for a smarter, more sustainable energy future. To quote the previously mentioned biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus, “When we stare this deeply into nature’s eyes, it takes our breath away, and in a good way, it bursts our bubble. We realize that all our inventions have already appeared in nature in a more elegant form and at a lot less cost to the planet.”


1. Goldstein, J. (1999). Emergence as a Construct: History and Issues. Emergence, 1, 49-72.

2. Thompson, E. & Varela, F.J. (2001). Radical embodiment: neural dynamics and consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5, 418-425.

3. Jabr, F. (2012) Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change, urging scientists to rethink intelligent behavior. Scientific American, November 7, 2012

4. Bailey, D., Geary, D. (2009) Hominid Brain Evolution. Human Nature (2009) 20:67–79

5. Schmitt O. (1969). Some interesting and useful biomimetic transforms. Third Int. Biophysics Congress. p. 297.

6. Merrill, Connie Lange (1982). Biomimicry of the Dioxygen Active Site in the Copper Proteins Hemocyanin and Cytochrome Oxidase. Rice University.

7. Lewis, W. (2016) Mathematical model of a moment-less arch. Proc.R.Soc. A472:20160019.

Press Release by Encycle

{PR Newswire} Boston Public Schools Selects Revolution Foods as Pre-Made Meal Provider for Breakfast and Lunch

New partner will deliver fresh meals made with all-natural ingredients, expand access for students

BOSTON, July 18, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced today that Revolution Foods, a national school meal provider focused on transforming the way America eats by providing access to healthy, affordable meals to students and families, has been selected as the district's pre-made breakfast and lunch provider through 2020.

Revolution Foods, which has a strong track record of providing high-quality, delicious food to schools throughout the U.S., ensures that all of its meals adhere to "clean label" standards. This means that they are made from wholesome, all-natural ingredients free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and additives. All of its meals are fresh, which will essentially eliminate the district's use of frozen food. Additionally, Revolution Foods utilizes fresh local and regional produce, high quality proteins, rBST (growth hormone)-free dairy products from local dairies, and prohibits the use of high fructose corn syrup and trans fats.

"For many students, the meals they receive at school are their most nutritious of the day," said BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang. "Revolution Foods embraces our nationally-recognized efforts of making sure every student has access to healthy foods in order to be well fed and ready to learn. I am excited that Boston Public Schools and Revolution Foods will work together to ensure all students get the healthiest and tastiest meals they deserve to help them better achieve their academic potential."

Revolution Foods is committed to providing minimally processed meals that are prepared fresh and delivered refrigerated — virtually eliminating the district's reliance on frozen food. Only about 1% of the BPS food inventory will be frozen, and even then it will adhere to clean-label standards and only be used in cases of emergency. 

"Our mission is to create lifelong healthy eaters and it starts by introducing a variety of healthy ingredients and culturally relevant menu items that drive student consumption," said Kristin Groos Richmond, CEO and founder of Revolution Foods. "Revolution Foods is the only company on a national level to offer a clean-label supply chain and student-inspired, chef-crafted meals. We are incredibly honored to serve the Boston Public Schools community. We are committed to being a strong partner in setting all BPS students up for success each day."

The company currently serves 2 million meals a week to more than 22 school districts throughout the U.S, including San Francisco, Austin, Texas, Newark, N.J., Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. It also serves more than 15,000 meals a day at 25 school campuses throughout Massachusetts.

Revolution Foods will build on its current relationships with local and national partners, such as Commonwealth Kitchen, Community Servings, Food Corps, Let's Talk About Food, and Share Our Strength/Cooking Matters, to help facilitate the distribution of fresh food and nutrition education for parents, teachers and students. It will also utilize the Rosev Dairy facility in Chelsea to facilitate distribution each day.

"Revolution Foods will be a strong partner as Boston Public Schools continues to make strides in expanding accessibility of healthy, delicious meals to all students," said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael O'Neill. "Revolution Foods' strong commitment to community outreach and ensuring the healthiest possible meals is particularly encouraging."

Recognized for its active outreach to families, Revolution Foods will bring to Boston a robust community engagement program that includes "Back-to-School Nights," community open houses, staff training, student/school food tasting events, and participation in local "Let's Talk About Food" events.

Each of these will provide BPS students and families an opportunity to discuss community needs, share feedback related to nutrition and taste standards, and sample meals through regular taste-testing. The goal is to use the family feedback to help develop innovative and culturally relevant menu items tailored to each school community based on family feedback.

Revolution Foods is also committed to working with BPS on exploring all options to increase participation in both breakfast and lunch.  The company recently implemented a successful "Breakfast in the Classroom" program in San Francisco in which students eat after the morning bell. The program positively impacted student test scores, attendance levels/tardiness, behavior and ability to focus as well as healthy habits and increased meal participation.

"Revolution Foods shares our vision of ensuring all students have access to healthy food," said Laura Benavidez, Executive Director of the BPS Food and Nutrition Department. "We look forward to working with Revolution Foods as we find innovative ways to expand menu choices and opportunities for students and families."

Through its partnership with BPS, Revolution Foods is creating 35 new jobs in the Boston area. Revolution Foods was selected following a thorough review process that included BPS parents, school staff, community members, and a member of the City's Finance Commission.

The Boston Public Schools (BPS), the birthplace of public education in the United States, serves nearly 57,000 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in 125 schools. BPS is committed to transforming the lives of all children through exemplary teaching in a world-class system of innovative, welcoming schools. We partner with the community, families, and students to develop in every learner the knowledge, skill, and character to excel in college, career, and life.

Founded in 2006 by two moms on a mission to transform the way America eats, Revolution Foods set out to solve the problem of limited access to healthy meals. The company's innovative approach began with serving freshly prepared, healthy meals to students in schools nationwide, and the company is now serving over two million school meals every week in 15 states. Parent and student demand for Revolution Foods products inspired the company to expand to the grocery store aisles and the company now offers a full line of healthy, ready-to-eat, on-the-go meals and snacks to nourish families throughout the day across breakfast, lunch and dinner. Revolution Foods meals and snacks can now also be found in more than 4,000 grocery stores nationwide, including Safeway, Target, Whole Foods, Acme, Harris Teeter, Shaw's and Hannaford as well as Amazon.com. Revolution Foods believes in bringing things full circle – one percent of retail sales are donated to schools through the company's "Feeding Good Fund," which provides grants to schools who need equipment to serve freshly prepared meals to their students. Revolution Foods was listed in 2015 among Fast Company's 50 Most Innovative Companies.

Press Release for Revolution Foods by Ditas Mauricio

{Los Angeles Business Journal} Diet Soda Maker’s Online Sales Shake Up Sector

BEVERAGES: Zevia bested all competitors except Coke with healthier alternatives.

Azero-calorie soda company is rising to the top in online sales as American consumers thirst for healthier alternatives.

Zevia, which sweetens its drinks with sugar substitute stevia, sold more of its branded soda online in the United States than any other brand except Coca-Cola for the year ended in February, according to a new report from New York industry analytics firm 1010data.

Sales of the Encino company’s drinks made up 17 percent of the online market, compared with 22 percent for the Coca-Cola Co.’s flagship beverage. The next closest was Pepsi with 12 percent. The report didn’t include sales numbers.

Paddy Spence, Zevia’s chief executive, said the internet provides the company a more level playing field than retail stores, where industry giants have strong relationships with distributors. His company generated less than $200 million in revenue last year.

Spence also said it is a sign of things to come as customers’ tastes change.

“The online market tends to skew younger than brick-and-mortar,” Spence, 50, said. “We see it as a leading indicator of what we’re going to see down the road. Younger shoppers are more focused on better-for-you products.”

The amount of soda consumed by Americans on average declined to a 30-year low in 2015, according to data from Beverage Digest. In response, big soda makers are buying startups selling healthier offerings.

Coca-Cola, which reported almost $42 billion in net operating revenue for the year ended Dec. 31, bought L.A.’s Zico Coconut Water in 2013 for an undisclosed amount. Last year, Pepsico Inc., which generated almost $63 billion over the same period, announced that it would acquire Oxnard kombucha maker KeVita, founded in 2009, for a reported $200 million.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which had net sales of $6.4 billion, acquired Bai Brands, a maker of flavored waters, tea, and soda, for $1.7 billion last year.

Since Spence bought Zevia, founded in 2007, with Syosset, N.Y.’s Northwood Ventures in 2010, sales have multiplied tenfold, he said.

In addition to Spence and Northwood, the company is co-owned by the management team and Seattle family office Laird Norton Co. Although it has less than 50 employees, Zevia outgrew its space in Culver City and moved to Encino two years ago. The company produces its drinks at 12 manufacturing plants around the country.

The rapid growth has prompted offers for acquisitions, Spence said, but Zevia is considering an initial public offering.

The company’s introduction in recent years of flavored sparkling water and energy drinks means consumers can drink Zevia beverages during every part of the day, he said.

“Now we have something for every member of the family from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep,” he said. “It’s a pretty neat place to be as a company.”

Beyond El Segundo

Beyond Meat, an El Segundo maker of a meat alternative, is increasing its reach with a deal to be distributed in 280 Safeway Inc. stores in Northern California, northern Nevada, and Hawaii.

The company, founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown, announced the news last week. Its patties made of peas are also available in certain Ralphs, Whole Foods Markets, and other outlets. The company started selling its Beyond Burgers in Whole Foods in May of last year, according to a spokeswoman’s email.

The company has raised $17 million from investors including Bill Gates, General Mills, Tyson Foods, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Safeway is owned by New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.

Fancying a Change

A local gourmet ice-cream maker has left the San Fernando Valley for downtown.

Nancy’s Fancy, founded by Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery in 2015, moved from the North Valley into a 6,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the Arts District, the company announced last week.

“Having a new, much larger facility designed specifically for the product will give us the opportunity to do some things I’ve been wanting to do, such as expand the flavor line and possibly add toppings and sauces,” Silverton said in a statement. “The thriving neighborhood also makes our new location ideal for a scoop shop.”

The facility was previously occupied by New York chocolate maker Mast Brothers, who moved out less than a year after moving in, Nancy’s Fancy said.

The company’s gelatos and sorbettos are sold at Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, and Gelson’s.

By Caroline Anderson for Los Angeles Business Journal

{Greentechmedia.com} Choose Energy, a KPCB-Funded Retail Choice Platform, Acquired by Red Ventures for ‘Less Than $100M’

A rare successful (?) exit for a VC-funded greentech company.

Digital advertising firm Red Ventures just acquired Plano, Texas-based Choose Energy for "less than $100 million," according to Dan Primack's Pro Rata newsletter. (We'd like to know just how much "less than $100 million" is, and we're asking around.)

Choose Energy is a retail energy choice platform that allows residential and commercial electricity and natural-gas customers (in non-regulated states) to select a cheaper or cleaner energy provider. Jerry Dyess is CEO and founded the firm in 2006.

The retail-choice company claims a sophisticated online strategy on its website: "Historically, retail energy companies have gained customers via acquisition channels like door-to-door, telemarketing and multi-level marketing networks. More recently, the greater volume of customers embracing retail energy choice has come from online and digital channels -- creating a more competitive landscape and a more informed customer."

As GTM has reported, the number of residential customers choosing their electricity source has grown considerably in recent years, and today there are more than 16 million accounts with competitive suppliers. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia are deregulated to allow consumers to select their electricity supplier.

Katie Tweed points out: "Whether the regulated or deregulated construct is the best approach depends in part on what the state is trying to accomplish. In New York, it's about creating an energy market at the distribution level. In Hawaii, it's about integrating very high levels of renewable energy."

The CEO of acquirer Red Ventures, Ric Elias, founded the digital marketing firm in 2000. Based in North Carolina, the firm specializes in "performance-based digital marketing." (Elias was a survivor of Flight 1549, the "miracle on the Hudson," and has given a TED talk recounting his experience.)

Primack notes that private equity firms Silver Lake and General Atlantic invested $250 million into Red Ventures in 2015. Last year, Red Ventures closed an $800 million credit facility, evidently to finance purchases like Choose Energy.

Choose Energy raised at least $25.7 million from investors, including Kleiner Perkins, BlueScape Resources, Sandler Capital and NGEN Partners. KP's investment in Choose came from the VC firm’s $1 billion green investment fund. We've asked KPCB partner David Mount for a comment and are awaiting his response.

Choose claims that its website has "helped over 100,000 consumers and business owners shop for and switch energy suppliers and plans." The company was profitable with “double-digit millions” in revenue, according to a Primack source.

Quick -- name six cleantech-funded VC-startup acquisition exits that would qualify as successful. "Successful" in this context means that in addition to a VC-quality multiple, the acquired firm continued to provide value after the exit was complete.

I'll start the list.

  1. Zep Solar (acquired by SolarCity)
  2. Nest (acquired by Google)

You can finish the list in the comment section.

By Eric Wesoff for Greentechmedia.com


Swarm Logic® integration with Zen HQ adds intelligent energy management features to further curb building energy usage and benefit customer bottom lines

NEWPORT BEACH and SAN MARCOS, Calif. — June 14, 2017 – Zen Ecosystems and Encycle today announced a partnership to bring Encycle’s Swarm Logic offering to the Zen HQZen HQ intelligent energy management platform. Zen HQ’s smart thermostats will leverage Swarm Logic energy optimization technology, which will further reduce customers’ electricity and maintenance costs by synchronizing and streamlining the operation of rooftop air handling units (RTUs) and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment.

Zen HQ enables organizations to cut electricity costs through robust controls for HVAC, demand response, lighting and energy consumption. Swarm Logic brings cloud-based enhanced demand management capabilities to the Zen HQ offering through additional control over power-hungry RTUs at the site level; it establishes a wireless network among RTUs that enables the units to communicate among themselves autonomously and efficiently respond to demand by spreading energy consumption more logically among individual units. Swarm Logic also measures the power consumption of each RTU, providing the intelligence needed to proactively pinpoint inefficiencies and allow building managers to cut maintenance costs and extend the life of building equipment.

The combined Zen HQ and Encycle solution set has been deployed thus far with two Zen HQ customers, National Stores and WSS, California-based retailers with a national presence. National Stores and WSS have already realized a 15-20 percent reduction in peak demand charges, on top of the 15-25 percent energy savings achieved by Zen HQ alone, demonstrating the synergy of the two technologies. 

“Swarm Logic is a perfect cloud-based energy management complement to the Zen HQ offering,” said Robert Chiste, President and CEO, Encycle. “Integrating Zen HQ’s smart thermostats with our elegant cloud-based EASE™ (Energy as a Service by Encycle™) solution provides Zen HQ customers additional demand management benefits with ‘set and forget’ convenience that can help bring annual energy costs down 15-25 percent. In addition, there’s no need to install additional equipment on site. Energy saving has never been this easy or effective.”

Additional features of Zen HQ include:

· An integrated platform to view, control and schedule heating, cooling, lighting, and energy usage across single or multiple sites.

· Partial or full lockout controls that prevent on-site deviations from schedules.

· Demand response capabilities through OpenADR and utility certifications.                                 

“Zen HQ has proven itself as a provider of unprecedented energy control and ROI for businesses of all sizes and footprints,” said James McPhail, CEO, Zen Ecosystems. “Zen’s success is largely due to our relentless focus on simplicity. By integrating Swarm Logic technology without disrupting customers, they’re able to further benefit from this ‘better together’ relationship that delivers even greater energy management features, and ultimately, cost savings.”                                           

About Zen Ecosystems                                                                         

Zen Ecosystems (Zen) provides intelligent energy management solutions to businesses and consumers. Zen HQ is an energy management system designed for the unique needs of businesses and utilities to provide insights and control over multisite commercial energy usage while delivering the fastest payback in the market. The Zen Thermostat is a beautiful, simple connected device for home and business that also enables multi system operators to enhance the customer experience. Learn more at http://zenecosystems.com/

About Encycle

Encycle Corp. is focused on helping commercial and industrial customers achieve dramatic improvements in the efficiency of their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The company’s multi-patented Swarm Logic® energy management technology is at the heart of the company’s solution set, leveraging the elegant simplicity of honey bee-inspired biomimicry to establish a wireless network among HVAC rooftop units (RTUs) that enables them to communicate among themselves autonomously.

A long and growing list of the world’s most-respected and sustainable companies depend on Swarm Logic to maximize energy efficiency, cut electricity costs, participate in demand response programs, reduce carbon emissions and reduce HVAC maintenance costs. Companies using the technology have reduced HVAC electricity costs by 15-25%, often with an ROI that’s less than a year. Encycle offices are in Toronto (Canada), San Marcos (California), and Taunton (UK). For more information, visit Encycle.com or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

By Michael Salmassian for Zen Ecosystems and Ginger Juhl for Encycle

{The Atlantic} Do Healthy Lunches Improve Student Test Scores?

A new study identifies a link between food quality and achievement.

March 22, 2017. For more than a decade, standardized-test scores have been the dominant metric for measuring what public-school students know and are able to do. No Child Left Behind, the sweeping federal education law enacted in 2002, ushered in a new era of student testing and school compliance. And in the years that followed—to meet targets and avoid sanctions—education leaders at the local and state levels have sought a variety of ways to boost students’ performance on tests, including extending the school day and giving bonus pay to teachers based on students’ test scores. Even less conventional methods, such as banning cell phones and offering yoga-like exercises, emerged as school administrators pursued the holy grail of high standardized-test scores.

But according to a new study, there’s one option that may have been overlooked: the ubiquitous school lunch. As detailed in a recent paper, economists set out to determine whether healthier school lunches affect student achievement as measured by test scores. The intense policy interest in improving the nutritional content of public-school meals—in addition to vendors’ efforts to market their school meals as good for the body and the mind—sparked the researchers’ curiosity and led to an unexpected discovery: Students at schools that contract with a healthier school-lunch vendor perform somewhat better on state tests—and this option appears highly cost-effective compared to policy interventions that typically are more expensive, like class-size reduction.

“When school boards are going out and contracting with these vendors, what they're thinking is that they're going to improve the health of the students, that they'll get them to eat healthier. I don't think they're thinking of it as a tool to actually improve academic performance [but] we found that it is,” said Michael L. Anderson, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the study's co-authors. “Something that is basically cheap, that is going to improve student health, and that has test-score gains seems like it would be very attractive [to] policymakers.”

According to Anderson, who spoke as school meals received renewed attention due to President Trump’s proposed budget, this is the first large-scale study to examine how the overall nutritional quality of school meals affects student test-score achievement. In 2010, as part of a push to combat childhood obesity, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed, resulting in more rigorous nutrition standards for school cafeterias. There is a body of recent literature that suggested a link between school meals and student test scores, but that research focused on improving access rather than the meals’ nutritional value.

To determine the link between food quality and student achievement, Anderson and his colleagues collected data from the California Department of Education on school districts’ meal vendors for the academic years from 2008-09 to 2012-13. Over that five-year period, 1,192 schools—about 12 percent of California public schools, including public charter schools—contracted for at least one school year with an outside company to provide lunch.

The team then hired the Nutrition Policy Institute, a research unit housed at the University of California, to score the nutritional content of vendors’ school lunches. Armed with sample school-lunch menus, NPI calculated the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), a U.S. Department of Agriculture measure of dietary quality for food items, for all of those companies’ meals. The average HEI score among all vendors with menu information was tabulated, and vendors with above-median scores were classified as healthy school-lunch providers. But there was still one crucial piece of information missing: how students at schools with healthy vendors stacked up against their peers at non-vendor schools on state tests.

In pursuit of that answer, the study’s authors compiled a database covering the same five-year timespan with school-by-grade-level test results on California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting exam, a statewide test given at the time to all public-school students in grades 2 through 11. Test score data from some 9,700 elementary, middle, and high schools found that contracting with a healthy meal vendor correlated with increased student performance by between .03 and .04 standard deviations—a statistically significant improvement for economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students, Anderson said, adding that the size of the effect “is not huge … but it is notable.”

What’s more, he said, districts are almost getting these improvements free of charge. After tabulating the average price per meal in the vendor contracts—and estimating the cost of in-house school meals based on National School Lunch Program reimbursements—the study found that it cost about $222 per student per year to switch from in-house school-lunch preparation to a healthier lunch vendor that correlated with a rise of 0.1 standard deviations in the student’s test score. To put that statistic into perspective, healthier meals could raise student achievement by about 4 percentile points on average.

In comparison, it cost $1,368 per year to raise a student’s test score by 0.1 standard deviations in the Tennessee STAR experiment, a project that studied the effects of class-size on student achievement in elementary school. The paper notes that established research in the field supports the need for “lower-cost policies with modest effects on student test scores [that] may generate a better return than costly policies with larger absolute effects.”

Sean Patrick Corcoran, an associate professor of economics and education policy at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, said the study underscores the positive impact of schools serving healthier meals, and he seconded the authors’ conclusions regarding cost-effectiveness. “I've seen a number of other rigorous studies that also find a connection between healthy eating and academic performance,” he said. “Students who eat regular, healthy meals are less likely to be tired, are more attentive in class, and retain more information.” And he said some effects are almost immediate: “Even when schools serve calorie-rich food on test day, students perform better on those tests.”

In Oakland, California, Kweko Power, 15, a sophomore at Oakland High School, agreed that there’s an academic benefit to healthier meals—citing classmates who skip school lunch because it’s unhealthy and unappealing—but she believes the benefits extend beyond test scores. “When students eat healthier and better food, they get more stamina because their body doesn't have to work as hard to process what they’re eating,” she said. “When you eat and feel good, you [are] happier … and feel less cranky. While I am usually upbeat around people, I can't be myself without good food.”

For children living in areas of concentrated poverty like Oakland, good food like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can be hard to come by. A secondary finding in the study was that contracting with a healthy lunch provider showed no evidence of reducing student obesity. And Power’s personal experience helps explain why. “In my neighborhood, we have a Lucky's [grocery store] nearby but it's expensive … it's cheaper to go to the three liquor stores that are within five blocks of that Lucky's,” she said. “When there are liquor stores that sell cheaper and unhealthier food, families tend to opt for cheaper food; they have no other choice. In areas where youth don't have access to healthier food options, you'll tend to see more obesity.”

Power, a student leader with Californians for Justice, emphasized that test scores aside, access to healthier food is fundamentally an issue of equity and civil rights. “It's also important to look at stress levels and what contributes to stress for students,” Power explained. She said hunger and lack of proper nutrition are everyday worries for low-income students. “Without good food, students are just stressed at school, and then still stress about being expected to perform well. Having healthy school meals is really related to how the school system is serving students that don't have [much access and availability] to resources.”

By Melinda D. Anderson for theatlantic.com

{Bloomberg News} Soda Upstart Zevia Tops Pepsi in Study of E-Commerce Market

  • Zevia CEO touts nutrition, low calories in push for customers

  • Pepsi, Coke looking to shift online as soda market shrinks

May 5, 2017, 12:50 PM EDT - The race to sell soft drinks online has a surprising second-place winner: Zevia. The zero-calorie, sugar-free soda brand sold more online than Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Sprite or Dr Pepper, according to a new study.

The Los Angeles-based company only fell short of perennial soda king Coca-Cola, according to 1010data Inc., an analytics company. From March 2016 through February, Coca-Cola and its diet and zero-sugar versions held 22 percent of the U.S. e-commerce market and Zevia had 17 percent. Pepsi (and its zero-sugar and diet versions) trailed with 12 percent.

The playing field is more level for smaller competitors on the internet versus the grocery store, where the largest companies have spent years optimizing their positions on shelves, Zevia Chief Executive Officer Paddy Spence said in an interview.

“The whole basis for selecting products online becomes much more based on the product attributes,” Spence said. This includes calories and ingredients because consumers are looking for healthier options. Zevia beats its bigger rivals “every time from a nutritional perspective,” he said.

The biggest soda companies have struggled to cater to increasingly health-conscious consumers. Per-capita soda consumption fell to a 31-year low in the U.S. in 2016, according to Beverage-Digest, a trade publication. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are trying to figure out the best way to migrate from brick-and-mortar stores to the virtual shelves that may be key for future growth.

Amazon.com Inc., the largest e-commerce retailer in the U.S., didn’t respond to a request for comment. But the site ranks its best-selling soft drinks in a list that’s updated hourly. As of Friday, Diet Coke ranked No. 1, followed by Bai Bubbles Voyager (a brand owned by Dr Pepper). Two other varieties of Coke were third and fourth, and Zevia rounded out the top five. PepsiCo made its first appearance at eighth with its flagship cola brand.

Amazon’s list of “most wished for” soft drinks -- a ranking that tracks products on customers wishlists and gift registries -- had Zevia at No. 1. Pepsi’s 1893, a craft-style soda that the company released last year, fared well on that list, coming in at third.

During a company presentation in February, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey emphasized the rising importance of e-commerce and said the company needs to make sure its products are “within a click’s reach of desire.”

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi echoed this sentiment in a call last month, saying the company is striving “to create impulse online.”

“It’s a work in progress, but I must tell you that our growth rates are quite impressive,” she said.

The vast majority of beverage sales still happen in stores, where Zevia still sells very little compared with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo brands. It made up only 0.1 percent of carbonated soft-drink sales in U.S. stores in the 52-week period ending April 23, according to IRI data. Coca-Cola Classic alone took 18 percent over the same period, while Diet Coke held 9 percent. Pepsi-Cola and Mountain Dew each made up 11 percent.

But the e-commerce market gives Zevia a way to overcome the marketing budgets of larger rivals, Spence said.

“That online venue, being information rich and education focused, really plays to our strengths,” he said

By Jennifer Kaplan for Bloomberg News

{Wall Street Journal) There Is Coconut Everywhere

Consumers lap up the tropical plant in water, milk, flour, oil and snacks

March 27, 2017 10:57 a.m. ET: If you feel like everything is starting to taste like a piña colada, it isn’t just you.

Coconut is in everything. Packaged soups, baby foods and snack foods are made with coconut oil, flour and shavings. Gyms are stocking coconut water. For some, coconut oil is a substitute for butter on popcorn, and coffee shops are spooning it liberally in blended lattés. The flavorful ingredient went from a garnish on a cake to a base in foods in part because consumers no longer worry about its fat content. It is also increasingly promoted as healthful: Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than ordinary sugar, nutritionists say, meaning it can cause blood sugar to spike less, which may help stave hunger. Consumers seek such plant-based foods because they can help them stick to popular diets, such as dairy-free or gluten-free.

Dang Foods sources its coconuts from Thailand at 8 months maturity, when founder Vincent Kitirattragarn says more meat and less water makes it better suited for chips. PHOTO: DANG FOODS

Dang Foods sources its coconuts from Thailand at 8 months maturity, when founder Vincent Kitirattragarn says more meat and less water makes it better suited for chips. PHOTO: DANG FOODS

“Coconut water put it on the map,” says Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, which tracks food introductions. Coconut’s association with water, she says

Bare Natural Foods is combining two trendy foods - chia seeds and coconut - into a new 'chia coconut' snack. PHOTO: BARE SNACKS

Bare Natural Foods is combining two trendy foods - chia seeds and coconut - into a new 'chia coconut' snack. PHOTO: BARE SNACKS

“makes everything [coconut] seem healthy.” Coconut water took off a few years ago, as a natural sports drink high in electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Then it became a darling of the dairy case, sold alongside soy milk and almond milk.

The number of coconut-containing product launches increased an average of 21% a year in the last five years, according to Innova.

Coconut follows in the footsteps of foods that have seen their names in lights before falling out of favor, from kale to broccoli rabe and sundried tomatoes. Such trends typically last two to five years and may be influenced by factors such as plentiful supply or scientific studies that demonstrate health benefits. “It’s going to wane,” says Liz Moskow, culinary director at Sterling-Rice Group, a Boulder, Colo.-based food consultancy. “I don’t think everything coconut is tasty.”

Bhavna Lee, a 39-year-old real-estate developer in Washington, D.C., says that since having her daughter Saara, 5, and son Ian, 4, she has turned to coconut oil as the go-to ingredient in fried foods and treats.

“They both like it so much they ask for a spoon of coconut oil before bed every night,” she says.

Coconut pieces are a popular alternative to potato chips. Bare Snacks, based in San Francisco, has more than doubled the number of its coconut-containing products in the last year to 10, including new coffee bean and sweet ginger flavored chips. This month it is launching a new line of coconut bites with chia seeds in 2.8-ounce bags for $4.

Berkeley, Calif.-based Dang Foods says its coconut chips are selling far more this year than last, and they contain “as much fiber, less sugar than an apple.” Founder Vincent Kitirattragarn says people tend to have strong feelings about coconut: About 80% of his coconut chip consumers are women. “I attribute that to the prevalence of coconut in beauty care,” so it is more familiar to them.

A common complaint is the mealy texture of coconut, which often gets stuck between teeth.

So Delicious coconut yogurts come in new fruit flavors such as peach and key lime, which the company says combine well with coconut. PHOTO: WHITEWAVE

So Delicious coconut yogurts come in new fruit flavors such as peach and key lime, which the company says combine well with coconut. PHOTO: WHITEWAVE

“Getting to a smoother mouth feel is one big technical area” of development, says John Ghingo, president of plant-based foods and beverages for WhiteWave Foods, which markets So Delicious coconut milks and yogurts. For others, the flavor is too strong.

Coconut sugar is becoming more popular because it can make blood sugar spike less than other sugars. PHOTO: WHOLESOME SWEETENERS

Coconut sugar is becoming more popular because it can make blood sugar spike less than other sugars. PHOTO: WHOLESOME SWEETENERS

“I am a strong and vocal hater of coconut,” says Lexa Lemieux, a 36-year-old executive operations manager at a trade association in Washington, D.C. “It tastes like suntan lotion and everyone tries to convince you to like it.”

Where does all the coconut come from, consumers may wonder. Three-fourths of global production comes from Indonesia, India and the Philippines, which are benefiting from the demand surge. In the Republic of Indonesia alone, coconut exports doubled to bring in $1.65 billion in 2014, up from $800 million in 2010, says Samit Chowdhury, who heads the Singapore-based Coconut Knowledge Center for Tetra Pak International, a Swiss-based food packaging company. Coconut prices nearly doubled in that time in India, and have gone up elsewhere as well, he says. Tetra Pak packaged over 800 million liters of coconut-based products in 2016, up from 710 million liters a year earlier.

Coconut products became such an important business for the company that Tetra Pak launched a Coconut Knowledge Centre in Singapore in 2012 to research the supply chain in response to growing demand, including running product and processing tests with regional universities.

Hain Celestial, a top maker of coconut oil, says drought conditions and typhoons that blew into the Philippines, its main supplier, have affected commodity prices for coconut oil, which are up between 5%

Spectrum coconut oil can be found in both food section and the beauty isle, as some people use it as a hair conditioner and to wipe off makeup. PHOTO: THE HAIN CELESTIAL GROUP, INC.

Spectrum coconut oil can be found in both food section and the beauty isle, as some people use it as a hair conditioner and to wipe off makeup. PHOTO: THE HAIN CELESTIAL GROUP, INC.

and 7% from a year ago. The company didn't raise it is pricing, however. Its 14-ounce unrefined coconut oil is $8.42, down 12% from a year ago, says Leah Dunmore, vice president of marketing.

This year, Hain Celestial’s Jason line launched a Simply Coconut line of toothpastes and touts “made with coconut oil” on packages of its Terra Plaintain Chips. Coconut is a featured ingredient in 77 of the company’s products compared with just 20 five years ago.

Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods says its coconut flour has risen to rank eighth in its lineup of over 60 flours. One of its appeals to dieters is that it is lower in carbohydrates than regular all-purpose flour and has more fiber, says marketing director Amanda Carter, though it has more calories and fat. The company’s coconut flour contains 14g of fat, 57 grams of carbs and 36 grams of fiber per 100 grams, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department’s National Nutrient Database. Its unbleached white all-purpose flour contains 1.5 grams of fat, 73.5 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber per 100 grams.

One caveat: Coconut flour is very absorbent and tends to create a dense consistency when baked, says Amanda Carter, marketing manager. The company recommends replacing just 20% of a typical recipe’s flour content with coconut flour.

By Anne Marie Chaker for The Wall Street Journal

{CB Insights} The Ag Tech Market Map: 80+ Startups Powering The Future Of Farming And Agribusiness

Corporate investors such as Mitsui, Monsanto, and Syngenta have backed startups improving irrigation, crop spraying, harvesting, and more.

As population growth increases the need to ramp up food production, tech startups are creating a range of agricultural software, services, farming techniques, and more aimed at bringing more data and efficiency to the sector.

We used CB Insights data to identify more than 80 private companies in agriculture tech and categorized them into eight main categories.

We define ag tech as technology that increases the efficiency of farms (in the form of software), sensors, aerial-based data, internet-based distribution channels (marketplaces), and tools for technology-enabled farming. We only include companies that primarily target the agricultural sector.

The breakdown is as follows:

  • Farm Management Software: This includes software like that produced by Andreessen Horowitz-backed Granular that allows farmers to more efficiently manage their resources, crop production, farm animals, etc.
  • Precision Agriculture and Predictive Data Analytics: These startups include those that focus on using big data and predictive analytics to address farm-related issues and make better farm-related decisions in order to save energy, increase efficiency, optimize herbicide and pesticide application (such as Prospera, which uses machine vision and artificial intelligence), and manage risk, among other uses.
  • Sensors: Startups in the sensor category include Arable, which offers smart sensors that collect data and help farmers monitor crop health, weather, and soil quality.
  • Animal Data: These companies provide software and hardware specifically aimed at better understanding livestock, from breeding patterns (Connecterra) to genomics (TL Biolabs).
  • Robotics and Drones: This category includes drone companies and related drone services that cater to agricultural needs (such as TerrAvion), as well as robots or intelligent farm machines that perform various farm functions more efficiently (such as Blue River Technology, backed by Monsanto Growth Ventures, Syngenta Ventures, and Khosla Ventures, among others).
  • Smart Irrigation: These startups, including Hortau, provide systems that help monitor and automate water usage for farms using various data exhausts.
  • Next Gen Farms: A growing category of companies that utilize technology to provide alternative farming methods to enable farming in locations and settings that cannot support traditional farming. Examples include AeroFarms for vertical farming and BrightFarms for new greenhouses.
  • Marketplaces: These startups offer marketplaces relevant to agriculture by connecting farmers directly to suppliers or consumers without any middlemen. While some are e-commerce platforms, others use tech to facilitate physical marketplaces (La Ruche Qui Dit Oui).

Some companies may overlap with different categories and are grouped according to their main use case.

By CB Insights

{Yahoo Finance} Nlyte Enables Organizations to Manage the Expanding IT Edge

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - Mar 15, 2017) - Datacentre World (Booth #M75) -Nlyte Software, the leading data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software company, today announced the availability of Nlyte Edge at Datacentre World, March 15-16 in London. The new software module extends the capabilities of the company's award-winning data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution by enabling IT and facility managers to visualize, manage, control and report on the IT and facilities infrastructure across and outside the extended enterprise. Nlyte Edge also includes the recently announced Nlyte Command Center capabilities.

Tweet This - .@Nlyte Edge sets new standard for #DCIM & reporting of #datacenter layers http://bit.ly/NlyteEdge @datacentreworld #DCW17

Offered as an option with Nlyte Platinum package, Nlyte Edge offers drill-down visualization and reporting capabilities across the various data center layers including: operations, capacity management, power management, and asset/change management. A detailed global map enables IT and facility personnel to quickly view locations, space and power usage while also managing their distributed locations:

·        Data rooms / data closets and their respective devices.

·        Assets in remote retail branch locations.

·        CRAC units, PDU's, BMS, EMS, Energy Infrastructure and other sensors.

·        Office lighting, cooling, power, communications closet room, power and cooling.

Peter Levine, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, explained at a recent conference that as computing capacity at edge nodes grows, demand for large centralized pools of processing resources in massive data centers will shrink, representing a pendulum swing not unlike the shift from mainframes to distributed client systems in the past.

"This shift is being driven by IoT demands and will become an increasingly important part of a CIO's service delivery strategy and that can only be successful if it is implemented with strong management systems," said Nlyte's Doug Sabella, CEO and President. "Nlyte Edge gives these organizations the visibility and control, to successfully and efficiently move their IT assets close to their customers without giving up control, efficiency or performance."

In addition, Nlyte Edge also promotes a more efficient use of devices through better planning while automating change audit logs across the extended enterprise. Facility managers now have the ability to further increase productivity through more efficient personnel time management as well as improve security by identifying unplanned changes.

Nlyte Command Center and Nlyte Edge are currently available. For more information, visit Nlyte at Datacentre World (Booth #M75) London, or Datacenter Dynamics Enterprise (Booth #63), New York, or contact: info@nlyte.com or call 650-642-2700.

About Nlyte Software

Founded in 2004, Nlyte Software is recognized as the industry leading data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution provider. Nlyte's DCIM provides unmatched functionality that supports all data center processes across the entire "dock to decom" lifecycle. With a 98% customer retention rate, Nlyte's DCIM solution is used by many of the world's largest and most sophisticated data centers, as well as many small and medium sized organizations. Customers can quickly deploy the Nlyte DCIM solution and begin to immediately enjoy reduced costs and increased efficiency across all data center processes. For more information, visit www.nlyte.com or follow @nlyte on Twitter.

All trademarks or registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners and are used for identification purposes only.

Marketwired for Yahoo Finance

{Today.com} Best Snack Awards: The 8 greatest grab-and-go bites

Meredith Rollins, editor-in-chief of Redbook magazine runs down her top-rated snack picks. Whether you're looking for something healthy, quick, kid-friendly, or indulgent, she shares which snacks should be your new go-to for a convenient and tasty bite.

1. Kid favorite

Sun Chips Harvest Cheddar, $2.69 for six 1-ounce bags, Target


You know you've got a winner when the kids are hooked. As a mom, they also make me feel like I'm not giving them terrible-for-them junk food since it's Sun Chips, which are really thoughtfully made and contain whole grains, so they're healthy-ish.

RELATED: 6 fun and easy snacks to make for hungry kids

2. Most satisfying

Philadelphia Multigrain Bagel Chips & Cream Cheese, $1.99 for a 2.5 ounce pack, ShopRite


The Philadelphia bagel chips and cream cheese are an invention I didn't know I needed but am now totally obsessed with. What took them so long to combine bagels chips and dip into one delicious product? It's the perfect match.

Moms loved that it's a to-go pack that's surprisingly hearty, whether for breakfast or between meals. Testers also loved the big crunch and tasty with the creamy, seasoned dip.

3. Top flavor combo

Sargento Balanced Breaks Natural White Cheddar Cheese with Almonds and Dried Cranberries, $2.99 for three 1.5-ounce packs, Amazon


Sargento Balanced Breaks is pure genius. It's all the things you are supposed to have in a snack (protein, fiber, healthy fat) in a little single-serving package that 100% makes you feel like you should be having it with a glass of wine at cocktail hour.

Universally loved by both the adult and kids testers.

RELATED: This super spice snack mix will boost your metabolism and give you energy

4. Juiciest treat

Del Monte Fruit Refreshers Mandarin Oranges in Coconut Water, $2.12 for two 7-ounce cups, Target


The Del Monte fruit refreshers are weirdly sophisticated: you think "pre-packaged fruit" and it calls to mind old-school fruit cocktail, but this is way more gourmet and fancy-feeling yet still a huge hit with the kids.

Our judges loved that the oranges taste fresh, and it's both a snack and a refreshing drink in one."

5. Best sweets

Oreo Thins Chocolate, $2.99 for a 10.1-ounce pack, Target


The Oreo thins are INCREDIBLE. They're totally addictive and great for someone who doesn't want their Oreos to be sweet-sweet-sweet. I think these got hoovered up the fastest in the office.

Or, in the words of one of our 9-year-old testers Griffin: "These are the bomb!"

RELATED: Kid-friendly healthy snacks that aren't boring

6. Most filling

Blue Moose of Boulder Roasted Red Pepper On-the-Go Hummus, $2.56 for 5.25 ounces, Amazon


It comes with little multigrain chips that are great with the hummus or would be just as good alone, and the whole thing feels both super-healthy and super-treat-ish.

7. Tastiest low-cal snack

Mamma Chia Blackberry Bliss Chia Squeeze, $1.79 for a 3.5 ounce pouch, Target


Mamma Chia has a lot of flavor and is deliciously fruity Its way more decadent than you think it's going to be, given that it's a) in a squeeze packet and b) made of chia.

RELATED: 9 healthy snacks you can find at CVS, Walgreens and more

8. Greatest grab-and-go breakfast

Belvita Sandwich Peanut Butter Breakfast Biscuits, $2.99 for a pack of five 1.76 ounce packs, Target


The Belvita breakfast cookies are a true revelation for those of us whose kids won't eat breakfast. It's like you're feeding them a cookie! Any kid will eat a cookie! But it's actually a super-healthy breakfast, too!

By Meredith Rollins for Today.com