Living Carbon is a biotech start-up that is creating ‘super trees’ as a means to help battle climate change.
The San-Francisco-based company uses genetic engineering to make trees grow faster and be more resilient to fungal decomposition.
The way that Living Carbon enhances the genome of certain plant species enables them to absorb higher concentrations of particular metals that, in turn, makes them more durable and boosts their growth rate.
As a result, the start-up’s trees sequester more CO2 from the atmosphere and produce more durable rot- and drought-resistant wood.
In addition to being highly beneficial to the environment by removing harmful, warming CO2 from the air, this biotechnology provides an opportunity for farmers and landowners to profit.
Due to the speedy growth rate of Living Carbon’s seedlings, they can be harvested much earlier than typical trees, significantly shortening the path to profitability and increasing revenue by 50% over a 20 year period.
To learn more about how Living Carbon is working to mitigate the climate crisis while also helping landowners, we interviewed the company’s co-founder and CEO Maddie Hall.
Tell us a little bit of how the idea of Living Carbon was born.
There had already been years of academic research and many companies started in the plant biotechnology space, and I thought “let’s apply plant biotechnology to help solve climate change.”
Have any of these new ‘super trees’ already been planted? Are there areas or regions that are considered optimal for these trees?
We have planted over 600 trees in a field trial in Corvallis, Oregon as part of a multi-year collaboration with Oregon State University.
We choose project sites that are suited for the species we have engineered – for example, our initial trees are hybrid poplar, and we are focusing our carbon projects in the US Southeast and Appalachia.
We are also working on loblolly pine, the dominant timber species in the Southeast.
How does Living Carbon reward landowners for planting photosynthesis-enhanced trees?
We offer free trees, free planting and site prep, and annual payments. Landowners can preliminarily assess if their land is likely to be eligible and profitable on our website.
Where are the carbon credits from these trees sold? Are you exploring different carbon marketplaces?
We have sold future carbon credits through direct sales to buyers, and they are also listed on the Patch marketplace.
What are Living Carbon’s growth prospects and what are the challenges for scaling the technology?
After spending two years focused primarily on R&D, we are moving toward scaling commercial production of our trees.
We have partnerships with plant nurseries for mass production of our seedlings, and will be planting our trees in forest carbon projects beginning in Spring 2022.
We are always looking for interested landowner partners and would encourage landowners to reach out if interested.
How big of a role will Lowercarbon Capital’s investment play in Living Carbon’s current and future development?
Lowercarbon has been a big supporter since Living Carbon was only two people and an idea. We share the same vision for the future and are excited to have them as partners.