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Meet Rutgers-based climate technology company, CliMit

CliMit, a Rutgers-based startup, seeks to address climate change vulnerability in certain areas, including New Brunswick.  – Photo by Emma Garibian

In July 2021, Michael Panchery, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, took part in Rutgers’ Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Academy and became inspired to start his own venture.

Several months later, he is now the CEO of CliMit, a new startup that aims to tackle climate change at the local level through the use of geographic information system (GIS) data and artificial intelligence (AI).

“I personally like to kind of be on the forefront of leading things, and so I decided it was a good opportunity and challenge to start something that kind of addresses climate change here at Rutgers,” Panchery said.

He said that the CliMit software can assess the vulnerability of certain areas and detect disasters such as floods, wildfires, droughts and landslides. If detected, CliMit will then search for solutions to protect the environment from natural disasters, he said.

Katie Sidebotham, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she first became associated with CliMit after hearing Panchery pitch the idea for the startup during her Innovation Lab course.

As the current chief technical and operating officer of CliMit, she said that building the startup has been challenging, and she has had to learn new technologies such as GIS to fulfill her responsibilities.

“It's definitely been a challenge to kind of maintain what I'm learning in school as well as learning new languages and new software for this company,” she said.

Additionally, Sidebotham said that because the team is made up of all undergraduate students, they have encountered issues like conflicting schedules. On the flip side, she said having undergraduate employees is what makes the startup great.

Sidebotham said that as students, CliMit employees are driven to succeed and excited to learn as they go since, for most of them, this is their first experience building their own company.

Joshua Israel, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year and chief research officer at CliMit, said that creating the startup was challenging but he worked to create solutions for himself and his whole team to ease difficulties. 

“I can remember spending hours upon hours trying to better understand the whole technical side so that I would be able to help my team understand their tasks as well,” he said. “I wanted to help me and my team stay more organized and on task so I sorted my department into teams and also made a management software to easily assign tasks to my employees,” he said.

Israel said that as a student-founded company, CliMit might inspire other students to create their own ventures that address important issues. 

Sidebotham said the startup is on track to release its minimum viable product (MVP) or its beta version by the end of 2022. She said she hopes that CliMit’s decision to scale down its tool to focus on Middlesex County will allow the startup to partner with Rutgers and test out its technology on campus.

“I think it's really important for the Rutgers community because as we saw with Hurricane Ida this past year, the whole highway (Route 18) was flooded, and given that we're right alongside the Raritan (River), there's a lot of threats in terms of flooding that we're going to see now and in the future," Sidebotham said.

In the long term, she said she hopes the startup will obtain more funding and connections within environmental policy networks to improve their technology’s algorithm. Sidebotham said that she believes CliMit is unique in that it not only recognizes climate change vulnerability but also offers solutions to mitigate it.

“Climate change is definitely, in my opinion, one of the ranked highest issues right now,” she said. “It's just a matter of having one planet, one home, and being able to preserve that, and I think there's not a lot of climate technology out right now that is looking to address those things we are going to address."


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