This company makes vodka out of thin air to save the planet
It's a story as old as time: Pull CO2 out of the air, wave your magic chemistry stick at it and bottle it as vodka and perfume. The planet wins carbon sequestration points, and you can stumble home at the end of a night reeking of self-congratulatory smugness and anyone who kisses you that night can taste how much you care about the environment. Well, that and martinis. The Air Company sells vodka, hand sanitizer and eau de parfum, and just raised a Series A to double down on its commitment to the planet.
"The perfect time to start this company would have been many years ago. The climate catastrophe is something that's happened for decades," says Gregory Constantine, CEO and co-founder of Air Company. "I hope that what we're doing now can inspire others to go out and try to incite change as well and use technological solutions like ours to help try to reverse climate change."
The company made its debut in 2019 with the world’s first alcoholic beverage made directly from carbon dioxide, Air Vodka. During the pandemic, the company used its access to alcohol to make hand sanitizer back in the early days, when there was barely any to be found on the shelves. We covered that shift in early 2020.
"During the pandemic, we put out a sanitation product -- a hand sanitizer that we've donated throughout New York and across the U.S.," says Constantine. "The funding that we've brought on is to really help scale those products to meet demand because we're constantly selling out of all the products that we produce. We also want to also begin our transition into industrial sectors, so that we can really have a massive impact of scale."
The company claims it is the world’s leading carbon technology company that creates "carbon-negative alcohols and consumer products" from CO2. Today it announced it raised $30 million in Series A funding. Carbon Direct Capital Management led the round, with participation from Toyota Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures and Parley for the Oceans. This round brings Air Company's cumulative funding to over $40 million.
“Our goal is to extend human life on this planet by directly reversing carbon levels in our air through the integration of our carbon conversion technology into every applicable sector. We’re achieving this mission by providing people with a highly attractive array of products made from captured carbon and working with businesses to integrate our technology into their industries, maximizing the amount of CO2 we can utilize each year," says Constantine. "If we can contribute to the protection of our planet through the advancement of technology and innovation, then we are doing our job”
From air and water to alcohol in a number of steps through fancy-looking machines. Image Credits: Air Company
Air Company plans to utilize this new growth capital to rapidly ramp up its CO2-derived alcohol production with the construction of the company’s third facility. This state-of-the-art factory will be home to Air Company’s newly designed commercial-scale carbon utilization system, its largest to date. This system will be dedicated to exponentially increasing the production of CO2-derived ethanol and sustainable fuels.
“Our immediate goal at Air Company is to further improve and scale our technology that converts carbon dioxide into the cleanest, lowest carbon intensity alcohols for consumer products, on the path to industrial applications,” said Dr. Stafford Sheehan, chief technology officer and co-founder of Air Company. “Ultimately, we aim to truly have an impact toward addressing climate change by utilizing waste and atmospheric carbon dioxide to displace fossil fuels at-scale; replacing the carbon that we currently extract from the ground, with carbon removed from the air.”
The company's magic trick is that it can create pure ethanol, with the only inputs being CO2, water and solar energy. It surprised me to learn the company doesn't use a contract manufacturer to create its products -- it uses its own facilities to convert and produce.
"Our volumes are relatively low compared to a traditional manufacturer, but the main reason that we make our own facilities is that we want to limit the amount of transportation that we have with our products. That's where the biggest source of carbon emissions comes from -- transportation," explains Constantine. "Until we're at truly mass scale, we're going to try to limit the amount of transportation that happens by doing it all ourselves. And then on top of that, all of our facilities are run on renewable power as well, so that's a big reason why we how we can mitigate emissions."
The vodka is sold out everywhere, but the company has distribution partners, and you should be able to pick up a bottle in a liquor store near you, or from the company's website when it has brewed up its next batch of planet-conscious loopyjuice.