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Water Today Title February 21, 2024
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Top Innovator
2024/2/9


CARBON REMOVAL - AS NATURE INTENDED

German-Brazilian based start-up InPlanet is removing carbon while regenerating tropical soils with Enhanced Rock Weathering

“The rapid progress we made in the last twelve months is demonstrating the huge potential of ERW as a CDR technology as well as a game changer for farmers. We are excited to pave the way with our partners and investors to establish InPlanet as a thought leader in the tropics!" -Felix Harteneck, CEO, InPlanet

Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW)is a natural process by which CO2 reacts with silicate rocks and water to lock carbon away for thousands of years in a safe and affordable way.

Interview with Amanda da Silva, Science Copywriter, InPlanet

By Suzanne Forcese

WT: Please give us an overview of InPlanet.

Da Silva: InPlanet is a German-Brazilian AgTech carbon removal company on a mission to remove gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere.

We work closely together with farmers to restore their soil and help them transition to a low-carbon, sustainable, and nature-based agriculture.

Our vision is to sequester gigatons of CO2 while regenerating tropical soils to create a liveable planet with nutritious food and healthy ecosystems for future generations.

InPlanet is the first carbon removal AgTech startup to work at scale with the unique conditions of tropical soils using Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW).

WT: Please tell us about the impetus to initiate InPlanet, and the journey that brought the founders together?

Da Silva: Felix Harteneck (InPlanet’s CEO), an Environmental & Resource Management Engineer and Niklas Kluger (Co-founder &COO) who focused on Management and Technology met in Munich when they were college freshmen. Their common entrepreneurial goals cemented their friendship.

Before launching InPlanet, CEO and Co-founder Felix had founded two software companies. After creating a CO2 balance for one of them and searching for solutions to offset unavoidable emissions, he realized that there is a lack of scalable, permanent, and safe solutions to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

While visiting Niklas in Brazil where he was working on a variety of agricultural projects, they collaboratively identified the huge potential of Enhanced Rock Weathering for Carbon Removal in the tropics and founded InPlanet in August 2022.

The InPlanet team is currently composed of 30 energetic, optimistic, and passionate individuals with a hands-on attitude. Our shared love for the planet motivates us to fight climate change and develop more harmonious ways to interact with our precious ecosystems.

WT: InPlanet has been described as the Leading Enhanced Rock Weathering Company in the tropics at the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 as a "Rethinking Removals Project". What has this recognition meant for InPlanet?

Da Silva: It was energizing and inspiring to see Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) emerge across the globe, in various forms, and to know that it continues to advance and create impact. This recognition shows us that we are on the right path to contributing to the global goals of scaling up carbon removal from thousands of Tonnes today to billions of Tonnes in 2050.

WT: What is Rock Weathering -- the way Nature performs it?

Da Silva: Rock weathering is a natural process that gradually removes CO2 from the atmosphere. The process has naturally regulated the Earth’s temperature throughout history. As part of nature’s portfolio of carbon removal mechanisms, rock weathering has sustained the planet's habitability.

Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) mimics and accelerates this natural phenomenon, traditionally occurring over millions of years, to actively remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere on human-relevant timescales of less than a decade.

WT: Please describe how the ERW process works.

Da Silva: The Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) process involves finely crushing silicate rocks, such as basalt, and strategically deploying the powders to accelerate the natural process of rock weathering. By spreading these rocks on farmland, ERW removes CO2 from the atmosphere and provides important co-benefits for local and global environments.

This process leads to the transformation of atmospheric CO2 into a stable dissolved phase called bicarbonate, which is transferred through groundwaters and rivers to the ocean, where it is stored for tens of thousands of years.

In agricultural settings, ERW can be accomplished rapidly and cost-effectively, providing essential nutrients to the soil without requiring farming practices or land-use changes.

By mimicking nature's own mechanisms, InPlanet's approach not only actively removes CO2 from the atmosphere but also provides important co-benefits for soil health, water management, and overall ecosystem vitality, contributing to the creation of a more sustainable and livable planet for future generations.

WT: Is there an impact on water? on sediment?

Da Silva: InPlanet's Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) mimics natural rock weathering processes, and therefore has a minimal impact on water and sediment.

The rock powders used in ERW are naturally occurring minerals that are non-toxic and do not contain any hazardous substances or heavy metals.

Agronomic testing is conducted by third parties for the quarries supplying rock powders, and all certification is collated by InPlanet to ensure that the rock powders meet quality and safety standards.

WT: How is this a game changer for farmers?

DaSilva: Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) offers a game changing solution for farmers by providing a cost-effective and sustainable method to improve soil health, increase crop yields, and participate in carbon markets.

By using rock powders as a natural alternative to expensive chemical fertilizers and lime, farmers can achieve significant cost savings while enhancing soil fertility and reducing nutrient runoff.

Additionally, the permanent removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through ERW allows farmers to contribute to carbon markets, potentially earning additional revenue.

WT: Does this method of regenerative agriculture employing ERW have an impact on the food industry?

Da Silva: Traditional agricultural practices are often unsustainable and lead to soil degradation, water scarcity, and greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the food sector is known to cause more than 1/3 of global emissions, and there are sources that confirm that even 70% of these originate from the farm where food is produced. (Schulman, 2021)

InPlanet offers a sustainable solution to these challenges by applying the Enhanced Rock Weathering process to improve soil health, increase crop yields, and permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is a game-changing solution for the food industry as it provides a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to meet the growing demand for food while reducing the industry's carbon footprint.

WT: Why was Brazil chosen as your first project?

Da Silva: Brazil is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world and has a significant mining industry. Brazil's warm and moist climate and mineral-poor soils provide optimal conditions for fast weathering, making it an ideal location for Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW).

Additionally, Brazil's reliance on expensive imported chemical fertilizers and its heavily degraded soils make it an attractive market for InPlanet. Rock powder has the potential to substitute or significantly reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, agricultural lime, and pesticides, which are associated with elevated costs, substantial CO2 footprints, and adverse effects on the environment and human health.

Furthermore, mining residues are widely available in Brazil, with a volume of 6 Gigatonne of rock powder currently in reserve, and an excellent network of quarries across the country for scaling the project. Finally, the production and agricultural use of rock powders are already legally regulated in Brazil, providing a favourable environment for InPlanet's operations.

WT: 2023 was an exciting year for you. Please tell us about your accomplishments.

Da Silva: InPlanet has put five projects into practice in 2023, working with 42 farms to spread 50,000 tons of rock powder, which allowed the company to remove 10,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Felix Harteneck, CEO of InPlanet, states that “the rapid progress we made in the last twelve months is demonstrating the huge potential of ERW as a CDR technology as well as a game changer for farmers. We are excited to pave the way with our partners and investors to establish InPlanet as a thought leader in the tropics!".

Co-Founder and COO, Niklas Kluger, who manages operations in Brazil, adds that working with the Farmers and Science community has built their confidence in the carbon removal potential of ERW, as well as its co-benefits.

WT: What is InPlanet’s vision moving forward.

For humanity to succeed, Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) methods must scale rapidly, with an industry average of 1300x increase by 2050. CDR must transform from pioneering research to an industry comparable in size to the current energy sector, in 30 years.

Enhanced Rock Weathering has been rapidly growing amongst the different technologies employed for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. “It’s getting more and more obvious that enhanced rock weathering will soon be one of the leading carbon dioxide removal technologies, according to InPlanet’s CEO, Felix Harteneck,

To illustrate this growth, last year InPlanet spread 50,000 Tonnes of basalt on Brazilian farmland, and the plan is to spread 200,000 Tonnes – a 4 times growth. By 2026 InPlanet will have removed 1M Tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

WT: Are you looking to expand the team as well?

Da Silva: InPlanet currently has a team of about 30 people motivated to make an impact on the climate crisis and remove gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere. In 2024, the plan is to expand the team further.









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