InPlanet is a German-Brazilian startup pioneering the use of Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) as a method for large-scale carbon removals. Founded in August 2022, it recently completed a successful pre-seed funding round, securing backing from a range of international investors. InPlanet has also joined Carbonfuture’s Catalyst program and participated in ClimAccelerator: CDR.
We spoke to InPlanet’s founder Felix Harteneck about the challenges of leading a German-Brazilian company, the importance of rigorous MRV systems in building scalable carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, and how his focus on ERW is inspired by CDR processes already found in nature.
Could you start by giving us a short explanation of what InPlanet does?
InPlanet is an Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) company. We have headquarters in Germany, as well as in Piracicaba, Brazil. We’re building a platform to connect farmers and mines, with a view to spreading gigatons of rock powder over the coming years to sequester carbon.
Can you give a simple explanation of Enhanced Rock Weathering?
Rock weathering itself is the most significant natural process on earth for removing carbon from the atmosphere, and it’s happening all over the world, all the time. When it rains, a small amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reacts with the rainwater to form a weak carbonic acid, which then reacts with rocks and starts to dissolve them. As the rocks dissolve, the minerals in the rock react with carbon to form bicarbonates. These bicarbonates then effectively lock the carbon away for thousands of years. Every year the earth sequesters around one gigaton of carbon through this natural process.
What we do with Enhanced Rock Weathering is basically to optimize and speed up this process. Naturally, it takes hundreds of years to sequester carbon this way, whereas we can bring it down to five years or less. We can also optimize the location of the weathering, to get the most potential out of the rock: we use five tons of rock powder to sequester one ton of CO2. And the rock we use is very accessible, it’s a basalt silicate rock, which makes up 80% of the earth’s rock. So we take it and spread it across farmland in the tropics, where it can start to sequester carbon.
What other benefits does ERW have?
The main co-benefit is that the rock also fertilizes the soil. Farmers in Brazil have been very open to collaborating with us, because we’ve found that the rock powder can replace up to 50% of chemical fertilizers. By replacing fertilizers with rock powder, they get huge cost benefits, as we provide them with the rock powder for free.
We’ve also seen in our pilot projects that the farmers’ yields increase, meaning they have an increased income as well as reduced costs, so it’s a very attractive deal for them.
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