Running Tide, a U.S.-based startup that aims to remove millions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere and store it deep in the ocean, is expanding to Iceland. As the company goes international, its technology that develops techniques to restore ocean health draws both praise and criticism.
According to its website, the startup builds “software-controlled, aquatic growing systems, laden with sensors and machine vision, worked by algorithms written by our data science team.” Running Tide plans to set tens of thousands of kelp adrift in the North Atlantic Ocean in the upcoming year, hoping that the seaweed will sink deep in the ocean and store thousands of tons of CO2 away from ambient air. Leading investors have committed to purchasing carbon removal credits from the startup, which has been valued at millions and has drawn positive attention from major media outlets.
A recent article in the MIT Technology Review, however, has shown skepticism over the company’s practices, saying that it “struggled to grow kelp along rope lines in the open ocean during initial attempts last year and has lost a string of scientists in recent months.” The article reported that scientists had concerns over whether Running Tide’s executives were paying enough attention to the ecological effect of its plans, while some employees worried the company is considering controversial practices such as adding nutrients to the water to stimulate kelp growth.
In an interview and email to MIT Technology Review, Marty Odlin, CEO of Running Tide, said the company is taking environmental impact seriously and rejected the claims that the startup had difficulties in its initial field efforts and that it lost a number of scientists.
Stripe is among the companies investing in Running Tide, and has so far committed half a million dollars to the startup. “I think we should expect rapid iteration, especially for companies that are in their infancy,” Nan Ransohoff, Head of Climate at Stripe, told Maine Public. “We’re pretty risk-tolerant at the beginning when there’s small scale.” Stripe will invest another half a million dollars in credits if Running Tide “can produce data on ecosystem effects and verifiable CO2 removal,” she also said.
Running Tide already has created first-of-its-kind data recorders that will deliver real-world information on ecosystem impact and CO2 removal that both scientists and investors expect.
The government of Iceland granted a four-year permit to the startup last month to release as much as 50,000 tons of biodegradable rafts off the country’s coast, with the understanding that 450,000 tons more could be released internationally.