February 26, 2024

Paving the way for blue carbon

Can you tell me a little about your background?

I have spent my entire professional career in ocean-related companies, with over 20 years of government, non-profit, education and industry experience in the ocean domain. Much of this time was spent in the fisheries-related sector, from working as a fisheries observer in the Bering Sea, to supporting small-scale fishermen around the world. When I moved to Maine nine years ago, I was eager to find a local endeavor that combined my passion for the ocean with my growing business interests. I found the perfect fit at Running Tide, where I had the opportunity to work at a fragmented and motivated startup, building innovative aquaculture systems, ocean health monitoring technologies and developing new markets in this rapidly evolving ocean space. In the four years I’ve been here, we’ve grown, changed course, and seen some amazing progress as we develop new products for our evolving world.

What have been the company’s main milestones to date?

For a company of our size and stage, we had some very significant achievements. In 2023, we delivered the world’s first open ocean carbon removal credits to Shopify. We were granted the first ocean carbon removal license by the Icelandic government, which was signed in particular by the environment minister himself. We have recently made inroads with several companies that have built large ocean infrastructure projects to monitor impacts on ocean health and biodiversity. We are also proud to say that we are Microsoft’s first ocean carbon removal supplier. We launched the world’s first ocean carbon removal measurement and verification system and are the first company to develop a complete data system to operate according to internationally recognized standards and to obtain a Big 4 auditor for our credit generation stack .


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What are the main challenges that still need to be overcome?

We have the talent, science, technology and protocols in place to make significant progress toward restoring ocean health – but we cannot implement our system without global regulatory frameworks that give us, and other ocean stewards, permission to operate. Time is running out and we need to take urgent and decisive action to safeguard our planet, but existing frameworks have not been developed with climate change and positive interventions to combat it in mind. We are prepared to work with all stakeholders, from others in the industry to coastal community leaders, countries and multilateral organizations, to develop global regulatory frameworks and oversight mechanisms that ensure all ocean stewards act responsibly and in line with the best available science.

Running Tides barge being deployed outside Iceland for the company’s carbon removal operations in 2023

© Running tide

What is your main focus and how will that change over time?

Our current main area of ​​focus is providing high-quality carbon removal credits through the sinking of terrestrial biomass that has been coated with alkaline materials to remove carbon and combat ocean acidification. However, the potential of macroalgae to remove carbon from terrestrial systems constitutes a significant part of our concurrent research efforts, and we anticipate that macroalgae will be increasingly integrated into our operations in the coming years.

We are also working to expand our scope through additional biodiversity solutions and ecosystem services, which we will eventually offer as products like biodiversity credits. But again, these are all components of a broader system that we seek to refine, optimize, and scale incrementally.

What made you abandon your initial plans to sink seaweed?

Our plan all along has been to amplify the great things the ocean already does, quantify them robustly, and then package the data into a usable format. This started from day one, building state-of-the-art oyster farming platforms using robotics, machine vision and real-time data dashboards. We’ve always wanted to harness the ocean’s carbon removal capabilities, but there simply weren’t markets for it in 2018. That changed in 2020 when companies like Shopify and Stripe released RFPs (requests for proposals) for durable carbon removal projects in an effort to spur innovation in the carbon removal space.

We went after these initial contracts, went through the scientific review process and got the initial pre-purchase agreements. Since then, the carbon removal space has grown dramatically, but there is still a long way to go for this industry to make a significant dent in the global carbon budget. Every day, more than 30 million tons of carbon dioxide are absorbed by the ocean. This continues to drive ocean acidification in addition to the warming we are seeing around the world. Over the next five years, we want to remove a day’s worth of carbon dioxide from the ocean and build from there.

Camlite buoy

These buoys, built in-house by Running Tide engineers, send underwater images via satellite in real time.
© Running tide

Can you imagine how your operations – from cellulose extraction to algae and shellfish farming – complement each other?

All of Running Tide’s activities are based on the fundamental principle of improving ocean health. Rather than viewing our operations as individual initiatives, we view them as interconnected parts of an Earth systems approach. That’s why we’ve pioneered advanced ocean health diagnostic, monitoring, quantification and verification technologies to better understand ocean health conditions, optimize our interventions and ensure they have a positive impact on ocean health. .

Our operations also include the ongoing development of innovative products that work within this systems-level strategy. While our primary focus has been on providing high-quality carbon removal credits through reducing terrestrial biomass and increasing ocean alkalinity, we are actively working towards a future state in which other nature-based solutions, such as reforestation of algae, be integrated into our system. More than that, by bridging the gap between nature and capital, we are cultivating a sustainable economic model that prioritizes and finances the restoration of vital marine ecosystems.

Will these activities take place in a specific location or multiple locations, and what will those locations look like?

Our carbon removal operations are currently being implemented from our facilities in Iceland, while our additional research facilities include our Ocean Mind Hub at our headquarters in Maine and a macroalgae center in Akranes, Iceland. We are also working towards multi-continental international expansion to optimize and amplify our positive impact on ocean health and ensure widespread and lasting results.

Macroalgae scientists examine a jar of ulva (sea lettuce)

The potential of macroalgae to remove carbon from terrestrial systems forms a significant part of Running Tide’s concurrent research efforts
© Running tide

What is your opinion on blue carbon credits?

Our general view on any type of ocean-generated credit is that it needs robust quantification and verification. As more energy and research is invested in quantifying, modeling and verifying the beneficial impacts of shellfish and seaweed at sea, I think there will be a range of credits that could be available, from carbon, to nutrients, to biodiversity.

What is your business model?

Fundamentally, we link capital to coastal and marine ecosystems so that we can implement interventions that meet the scale of this monumental climate problem. To do this, we developed a platform to fully diagnose, measure and monitor ocean health, and quantify and verify any ocean health interventions. This cutting-edge platform allows us to implement and document the positive impact of interventions, which we can then sell to companies and organizations as carbon credits to meet their ESG objectives and become part of the climate solution. We are also continually developing quantification and verification systems for other ocean health metrics, for which we intend to eventually sell corresponding credits, such as biodiversity credits.

What is the fundamental vision of Running Tide?

Our vision is an abundant, diverse and prosperous planet for future generations. Abundance can only occur when we have healthy oceans, a balanced carbon cycle and vibrant coastal communities. It’s ambitious, but it’s our underlying motivation.

How has the company been funded to date and when are you likely to look to raise further funding?

Over the past six years, we have raised more than $70 million and all of this has been invested in building the science, technology and team to pioneer and do early deployments and testing of our platform and monitoring and verification interventions. Now it’s a matter of iterating, optimizing and scaling further to meet the full challenge of the future.

What do you hope to have achieved by the end of the decade?

Running Tide is working to build a world where ocean health interventions, including carbon removal and ecosystem restoration, are part of every sector and every community, and every action is part of the solution. Ocean degradation affects all living things, and at Running Tide we are exploring multiple paths to restore them to full health and productivity. The IPCC has repeatedly called for the removal of 660 gigatons of carbon by 2050 as part of the solution to climate change, so by the end of the decade we aim to be operating across multiple continents, committed to both carbon removal and ecosystem restoration. , and in partnership with hundreds of coastal communities in this regard.

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