MARKLE, Ind. – Sortera Technologies Inc. has closed on a $30.5 million Series C round of funding.
The company, which operates a facility in the northeast Indiana town of Markle, has developed a technology platform it says allows for the complex sorting and recycling of mixed aluminum alloys that can then be put back into the manufacturing process.
“There’s a lot of non ferrous metals that, unfortunately, since they’re mixed, they’re either downgraded, or they’re just shipped to Southeast Asia to be sorted by hand,” said CEO Michael Siemer. “And when you apply Sortera’s process, we can take those mixed metals and put them right back into domestic processes and displace virgin materials.”
Siemer told Inside INdiana Business the funding is the “shot in the arm” that will help the company reach the finish line to get to commercial growth.
“We’re looking forward to building additional plants in the U.S. and expand with our partners into Europe, because this is a very common problem,” he said. “We under utilize these perfectly good materials and the Sortera process can make them valuable again.”
The funding round was led by RA Capital Management-Planetary Health in Boston, with participation from certain funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. in Baltimore; the Mineral Resources Group, which is part of Mitsubishi Corp.; and Macquarie GIG Energy Transition Solutions in Luxembourg.
Sortera said additional existing investors include Detroit-based Assembly Ventures, Breakthrough Energy Ventures in Washington, and Canadian venture capital firm Chrysalix.
The company, founded in 2020, has its first, 200,000-square-foot, full-scale facility in Markle, which is about 25 miles outside of Fort Wayne and 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis.
Sortera is ramping the facility up to its full production capability, which will be to sort up to 200 million pounds of mixed metals annually. The company expects to reach that milestone in 2024.
But Siemer says they have growth plans beyond just northeast Indiana.
“We’ve made projections that we would like to build a minimum of 10 plants in the U.S. and then go to Europe and do kind of the same, 5-10 plants there,” he said. “There’s plenty of material and plenty of demand for the material.”
Sortera also operates a research and development facility in Austin, Texas that opened earlier this year. Siemer said the staff at that center, along with some remote employees, are “what makes the secret sauce work” in terms of the company’s technology.
Siemer said because the mixed metals that come in are all unique sizes, they’re typically shipped overseas and recycled into lower-grade materials. Sortera’s technology, he said, uses a combination of sensors and software, the latter of which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning, that can not only separate the materials but remove unwanted contaminants.
The company said the process increases the availability of metals for domestic manufacturers, and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with virgin metals production.
“Sortera’s technology advances the goals of a healthy environment and a healthy economy, and does so in a critically important sector,” Kyle Teamey, managing partner of Planetary Health at RA Capital Management, said in a news release. “Non-ferrous metals, such as aluminum and copper, are essential to the ongoing massive growth in renewable energy and electric vehicles that are at the core of the energy transition. Sortera enables the transition to a cleaner, more productive economy while also providing an economic boon to metal producers.”
Sortera currently employs about 80 people between its Markle and Austin operations. The company did not specify how many new jobs would be added with the funding round.
Siemer said the company’s technology could eventually be used for sorting plastics as well, and the support from its investors will help fuel that continued growth.
“We’re just three years into this, and our existing investors are all in, and the new investors or world-class entities that want us to be successful. And they’ve really come across as being helpful,” he said. “It’s been really nice to be able to have an oversubscribed round in this environment, and then being able to have the support, not just to grow in Indiana, but to grow globally. So it’s an enviable position.”