Our friends over at Seaweed Generation are doing exciting work using automated robots in the ocean to collect and sink invasive seaweed into the deep ocean.
Doing this not only locks carbon away for hundreds of years, but also prevents environmental disasters caused by the seaweed - a floating species called Sargassum - when it hits coasts, where it can also severely impact human health and livelihoods.
Type: Ocean Biomass Sinking
Permanence of carbon removal: 100-1000 years
Locations: Caribbean, UK
We’ve been excitedly watching their progress over the last couple of years. As we talk about in our climate courses, the oceans already capture billions of tonnes of humans' excess carbon dioxide emissions, and they hold a lot of potential to do more.
Not only are Seaweed Generation science-first, but their nature-based, technology-enabled and open approach makes them natural partners for Zopeful.
We’re thrilled to be working with Seaweed Generation and including them in our .
Seaweed Generation's mission is to mitigate and remove carbon emissions using seaweed. There’s a lot of it in the Atlantic Ocean in the Great Sargassum Belt that could be utilized for carbon removal and more. The 100 million tonnes of Sargassum in the Atlantic equates to around 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) potential.
They believe that the wonders of seaweed can be coupled with technology for ocean rehabilitation of biodiversity, removal of pollution, and deacidification, that will also create a fantastic base biomass for food, animal feed, fertiliser, plastics, fuel, carbon removal, and much more.
We love that their approach has potential to support decarbonization and emissions reductions, along with removals. Win!
Using Sargassum for CDR is a great way of solving two problems at once - it helps us to reduce these massive harmful influxes, and it gives us the opportunity to remove additional carbon. By itself Sargassum is not going to get us to the gigatonne scale, but it gives us a great opportunity to develop great MRV, answer important questions about the parameters of seaweed based CDR to allow the industry to scale safely.
CEO + Founder, Seaweed Generation
Sargassum, like all seaweeds and plants, relies on the light from the sun to photosynthesise and grow. One of the elements it needs to do this is carbon which it obtains from CO2 in the surrounding water, the plant does not breathe air from the atmosphere. But, the ocean and atmosphere are constantly jockeying for equilibrium and, by means of some complex chemistry and physics, as carbon dioxide is removed from surface waters, it is replenished from the atmosphere.
During their pilot project in the Caribbean they’ve been using their first robot, the AlgaRay, to locate and sink sargassum in the ocean. Their second robot, the AlgaVator, is designed to decrease the cost of growing seaweed, so they can use it for high volume products such as animal feed, fertiliser and packaging, or sink it for carbon dioxide removal.
Patricia started Seaweed Generation in 2021, having become hooked on seaweed as a potential replacement for carbon intensive industries. After moving to California in 2018, and being close to several seasons of wildfires, she decided to move away from Software Engineering and into climate. Research into carbon drawdown methods led her to regenerative farming, which (after many failed experiments) led to hearing about seaweed as an organic fertilizer.
Two weeks of full time Googling later, mind blown and totally hooked on seaweed, Patricia started a podcast to entice experts to share their knowledge. Seaweed Generation Chief Science Officer, Mike Allen, was the first subject, and Head of Cultivation, Duncan Smallman, the second. Seaweed Generation was born.
Since then they’ve been exploring the world of seaweed for the best possible starting point, zeroing in on sargassum, thanks to Mike’s 9 years of working to find a viable solution to the problem.
The amount of Sargassum in the Great Sargassum Belt has been increasing each year. It’s caused by excess fertilizer, raw sewage and soil runoff. Up to 100 million tonnes is growing each year with enormous amounts of it making landfall. From the West Coast of Africa, throughout the Caribbean and Central America, coral reefs, mangroves, beaches, marine animals and humans are being poisoned by dense influxes of sargassum each year.
Their experienced, multi-disciplined, team is channelling their curiosity and energy into combating climate change. They’re using software engineering and robotics to harness the power of seaweed, in order to achieve their mission of making seaweed for climate change mitigation a reality.
We love this cross-discipline vision, as it’s clear to us that it takes all of us to create the solutions our world needs. Tackling this invasive growth while also sequestering carbon deep in the ocean feels like a win-win to us!
Using seaweed species to sink carbon captured when the plant grows into the deep ocean has potential to scale up to millions of tonnes of carbon removal.
There's Up to 100 million tonnes of it growing each year in the Great Sargassum Belt in the Atlantic Ocean, with enormous amounts of it making landfall. No one is happy about this!
Seaweed Generation sends its robot, the AlgaRay, which resembles a manta ray to collect and sink the sargassum. It's a self-contained unit with solar cells on the top and the sargassum collection, diving, and resurfacing are entirely automated.
They are aiming to complete this pilot phase by Q4 2024 to start scaling their operations and remove 6,000 tonnes by Q4 2025, and then grow from there.
Despite a massive amount of urgency to scale carbon removal, there is a tendency in the market to focus on closed systems like Direct Air Capture, which are extremely measurable. If we are going to get to the huge target recommended by the IPCC, we must make sure to also focus on open systems, like seaweed, which typically engage natural systems for highly scalable CDR.
CEO + Founder, Seaweed Generation
There are many climate positive applications for seaweed. These get shouted about a lot. They include cosmetics, nutraceuticals, food, fertiliser, animal feed, plastics, fuels, and of course, carbon dioxide removal.
But, to be viable for carbon dioxide removal, the cost of cultivation must drop dramatically, and more research on the effectiveness and effects of the approach must be done.
That’s why Seaweed Generation are starting with sargassum that’s already available in large volumes out at sea. By reducing and preventing the environmental destruction it causes and removing carbon dioxide at the same time.
By doing so it allows them, and the industry, to learn about the viability of seaweed based carbon dioxide removal at scale. Including measuring the amount of carbon dioxide that is removed with greater precision, and developing monitoring capability for the deep ocean environment to see if there are any detectable side effects.
These are important steps towards seaweed based carbon dioxide removal to scale, which will need low cost, large scale and safe cultivation.
Seaweed Generation is a Pilot stage CDR provider based on . They are aiming to complete this phase by Q4 2024 to start scaling their operations and remove 6,000 tonnes by Q4 2025, and then grow from there.
The ultimate vision for their robots, which will resemble manta rays, will be a self-contained unit with solar cells on the top and the sargassum collection, diving, and resurfacing being entirely automated.
Seaweed Generation is developing automated buoyancy control systems for continual monitoring and MRV to work with the AlgaRay system. Beyond sargassum, further biodiversity remediation and scale is planned, using the AlgaVator system for automated and cost effective cultivation.
To achieve Net Zero (& beyond) we need to grow global carbon removal capacity to somewhere between 5 to 10 gigatonnes per year by 2050. Oceans are already a key carbon sink and we think they have the potential - from a carbon storage permanence, additionality and scaling - to contribute even more to help us all combat climate change.
Zopeful's Carbon Removal Portfolios primarily look at solutions that are as-permanent-as-possible-for-the-$, combined with additionality and verifiability. As you may know from our climate courses, we're very conscious of climate justice issues as well. There can be no full transition to a zero emissions world that isn't just. We're including carbon removal partners in the portfolios that engage and include local communities in the countries they operate in.
Seaweed Generation is partnering with island states to develop sargassum mitigation, blue carbon markets, and seaweed based industries. In these areas, local populations are suffering from sargassum influxes, on top of rising seas and increasingly extreme weather (yes, climate change). Finding a scalable solution to the problem that also creates great opportunities for local populations is key to this approach.
We are really excited to be working with Zopeful on our pilot projects. Zopeful’s mixed portfolio approach is a fantastic balance of pragmatic and pioneering, which will need to be replicated if we are to have any hope of remaining below 1.5, or even 2 degrees, of global warming.
CEO + Founder, Seaweed Generation
As you’ll be aware from our climate courses, slowing and reversing climate change not only requires us to reduce emissions from the current levels, we also need to take out hundreds of billions of tonnes we’ve already added to the atmosphere over the last 200 years, as well as anything we emit now or in the future.
The ocean already plays a pivotal role in removing CO₂ from the air every year. It makes sense to invest to both enhance its carbon removal capability, finding new uses for underutilized and abundant resources, while also nurturing our ocean’s long-term health as a crucial, and irreplaceable, ecosystem.
We’re excited about Seaweed Generation’s dual approach - developing their capability both for carbon removal and also to create alternative use cases for seaweed that potentially support reduced carbon emissions; for example in cosmetics, nutraceuticals, food, fertiliser, animal feed, plastics, and fuels.
Seaweed Generation is doing ground-breaking work in making this a reality and we can’t wait to see what they do next as they continue to research, develop and deploy their solutions. Go team!
Read more about Ocean-based + Blue Carbon & why we include it in our Carbon Removal Portfolio 👇
Great to hear! We're delighted you're with us. We've set-up two options for you to get started removing your carbon emissions. Whether you're dipping your toe or draining your proverbial carbon ocean, there's an option here for you. Custom options available.
Ready to remove some or all of your carbon emissions? Amazing! You're in the right place. Subscribe to a monthly contribution to live your best climate life.
Bought a new thing or some more stuff? Taken an unexpected flight? You can remove individual purchases with our one-time carbon removal option.
Looking to add durable CDR to your organization's sustainability or net zero program? Get in touch with us, we can help with custom volumes to suit your goals.
Our ready-made, curated, portfolio of high quality carbon dioxide removal (CDR) solutions is live. It aims for the highest permanence-for-the-$-per-tonne that we can find.
We're excited to be working with an inspiring group of global CDR companies taking the fight to the Climate Crisis. They're doing amazing work that holds a tonne - pun intended - of promise.