Sustainability : High Tech Algae Farms That Take Carbon From The Air

Nature-based carbon capture and storage company Brilliant Planet uses ‘microalgae’, grown in open-air natural seawater pond-based, high-tech systems on coastal desert land to remove carbon from the air.

Permanently Capturing And Storing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide 

The company says that its method of using technology and science-led, pond-based algae-growing systems can deliver an affordable method of permanently and quantifiably sequestering carbon from the atmosphere at the gigaton scale.

How It Works 

Since its beginnings in a three-square-meter experiment on the shores of St Helena, South Africa, and 3 years using the world’s largest algae growth pond (3 hectares) in the coast of Morocco, the system has been developed using natural resources and technology. Like trees, algae sequester carbon dioxide naturally through photosynthesis, thereby taking carbon dioxide from the air, and releasing oxygen. The Brilliant Planet System, therefore, uses vast ponds of seawater, built on otherwise useless coastal desert land to grow huge quantities of micro-algae. The conditions the system is able to create enable the replication of blooms of algae (which are usually seasonal) all year round.

As part of their natural living processes, the algae use the power of the sun to exchange the carbon dioxide from the air for oxygen. Although pumps are needed to move the pond-water around, the system and layout of the ponds uses gravity to feed down through most of the system from one pond into the next, thereby remaining energy-efficient.

30 Times More Carbon Removed Than Rainforests

Brilliant Planet’s Chief Scientist and Co-Founder, Raffael Jovine, has been quoted as saying that “Per unit area this approach sequesters up to 30 times more carbon per year than rainforests”. He has also said that the system also offers the added benefit of de-acidifying the local coastal seawater “back to pre-industrial levels.” 

How Technology Is Used

Brillian Planet says that it uses the latest advances in sensor technologies, high-frequency satellite monitoring and industrial automation to cater to the needs of the algae with unprecedented accuracy. The company also says that it uses machine-learning driven digital twins to provide provides a paradigm shifting level of optimisation and enabling the company to truly harness nature’s potential.

Funding 

Brilliant Planet recently announced the closing of its now oversubscribed $12 million Series A funding co-led by Union Square Ventures and Toyota Ventures.  The company has said that additional and follow-on investors include Future Positive Capital, AiiM Partners, S2G Ventures, Hatch and Pegasus Tech Ventures. The funding is to be used to prepare for construction of a 30-hectare commercial demonstration facility.

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation? 

For all organisations and, indeed, all people, reducing emissions is vital to the survival of the planet. However, the carbon that has been (and will) be released must also be removed from the atmosphere to enable the limiting of global warming to 1.5°c. The beauty of the Brilliant Planet system is that it works with nature. The benefits include using seawater and not fresh water, de-acidifying the water used, and utilising otherwise unused pieces of desert to deliver ‘net new’ productivity. Also, the system is reported to be low cost and scalable. Presumably, this system, after many years of testing and now funding, can be scaled-up and replicated in similar environments elsewhere. As well as helping to reduce global warming, this scaling-up could provide jobs and other opportunities.

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