Killing Godzilla, 100 Tonnes of Carbon at a Time

As of today, we’ve completed the first ever carbon removal in the open ocean for our first customer Shopify, delivering 100 credits, and are currently running the world's largest carbon removal research operation 190 miles south of Iceland in the North Atlantic. This milestone is the result of a significant multi-year investment of time and money — and the hard work of our partners and team of innovators in science, technology, and operations to reach this starting point on our path to remove a billion tons of carbon each year and restore ocean health.

The global economy is not decarbonizing fast enough, and each year we continue to dig up and emit more and more slow carbon. The math is simple: we need a carbon removal industry at a global scale to move billions of tons of carbon every year back into long-term storage, to restore ocean health and pass on a planet that doesn’t suck to our kids and our kids' kids. 

There are those who will say we are moving too fast, that there is too much uncertainty, that we are “getting ahead of the science.” We will continue to move as fast as our ability to learn, iterate, and advance science forward with the minimal amount of risk possible, knowing that our ocean and our planet are in rapid decline. We are doing this work against the backdrop of widespread flooding in the US Northeast, an all-time heat spike in the Atlantic Ocean, and historical temperature records falling across the globe on a near-daily basis. We are not moving fast enough.  

This is the story of how we got to this point – and how we’re going to continue to learn and evolve our work. 


Eighteen months ago, we drafted a short press release announcing our Series B. It was a standard release for a VC-backed company. Here is the draft:

Lowercarbon Capital leads $54m Series B investment into Running Tide, the largest investment in ocean-based carbon removal to date  

January, 2022

Led by Lowercarbon Capital - with backing from new investors Foobar, and Greenpoint Partners and returning investors Grantham, Foundry Group, and Venrock - the investment will enable Running Tide to scale operations worldwide in 2022 with the goal to remove one billion MtCO2e annually.

“Running Tide was the kind of company we were hoping we would find when we started Lowercarbon. Bonkers scale, unreasonable ambition, massive impact on the planet. During insane times. It’s entrepreneurs like Marty Odlin that fire us up.” 

 Chris Sacca, Co-Founder of Lowercarbon Capital via Twitter

“Every day I wake up and get to work figuring out how we kill Godzilla so we can heal the ocean. This investment is a major step in making that possible. Now let’s get back to work and move mass.” 

Marty Odlin, CEO and Founder Running Tide

We never pressed send. Why? Because what matters is not raising money, but how much dirt is behind your shovel. We are here to dig, because in a fight with Godzilla, that is the only thing that matters. 


In 2017, we started Running Tide with the idea of building a “humanity’s operating system for the ocean.” Six words representing the idea that we can leverage technology and science to build a new approach to engaging with the ocean. We saw firsthand the failures of the traditional “extraction vs. conservation” paradigm, so we decided to build a company to restore the natural capital of the ocean through science and data-driven interventions. 

We raised a bit of seed funding and started building. We built sensors and software platforms to help us better understand the ocean. We built the most technologically advanced shellfish growing system in the world – a combination of robotics, machine vision, and ocean health data. In short, we started doing the thing in the ocean, collecting data, and iterating. 

The one clear signal we saw year after year was that ocean health was in rapid decline. The ocean is getting warmer, more acidic, and less productive. We realized that localized mitigation of this decline is a band-aid, and that if we wanted our kids to live in a world with a healthy and abundant ocean, we needed to partner with the ocean to solve the fast carbon problem.


This is where Shopify stepped in. In 2019, Shopify launched their Sustainability Fund, designed to be a global launchpad for climate entrepreneurs building tomorrow's groundbreaking technologies. They quickly focused on the need to provide catalytic purchases for promising carbon removal solutions, and became our first customer

There exists no pathway to restoring the planet without carbon removal - the intentional movement of carbon from the fast carbon cycle (air, sea surface, plants, etc.) to the slow carbon cycle (deep sea storage and rocks). For decades, the solution has been planting trees – but planting trees does not remove carbon from the fast carbon cycle, so we also need solutions that can remove billions of tons of fast carbon each year reliably and cost-effectively. 

There are many proposed “technological” solutions, all of them with fun new acronyms (DAC, ERW, OAE, BiCRS, BECCS, etc). We need all of them. Yet, when you get down to first principles there are only two ways to remove carbon: you can put fast carbon under huge amounts of pressure where humans can’t disturb it, or you can turn it into a rock. 

At Running Tide, we believe the ocean is our greatest ally in that effort. Through a combination of chemistry, biology, and gravity, it is our planet's most powerful removal “technology” – transferring ~10 billion tons of fast carbon back to the slow carbon cycle every year through its biological and solubility pumps. It’s also our largest carbon sink - nearly 39,000 billion tons is stored in the deep ocean


When we raised our Series B eighteen months ago, the goal wasn’t to grow kelp and sink it. The goal was to build an integrated ocean operating system (OceanOS) that combines logistics, hardware, software, and Earth science to coordinate global operations of the lowest cost, highest scale carbon removal “technology” in the world - the ocean. 

We are building OceanOS so that we can understand ocean physics, chemistry, and biology as a dynamic and integrated system, connecting that to the impact of a specific carbon or biodiversity intervention, and integrating it into a data-rich global supply chain. That gives us the capability to adapt multiple different carbon removal pathways into a systematic approach that work in combination to deliver a highly scalable, low-cost ocean carbon removal system built on natural processes. 

Running Tide is not a kelp sinking company. Kelp is weirdly great at sucking up fast carbon, but if we want to effectively leverage it as a tool to remove billions of tons of carbon every year, we need to build the technical capabilities to measure everything from the forest floor to the ocean floor. We need to advance our collective understanding of these interconnected natural systems: growing and sinking terrestrial biomass, dissolving alkaline minerals in the surface ocean to convert fast carbon into a stable bicarbonate, and growing and sinking algae.

This all sounds great on paper, but what it takes to do this work is a massive, global, interdisciplinary effort. 

We invested our Series B into building a world-class team of scientists, engineers, and operators. We transformed from a 30 person team in Portland, Maine, to a global team of 120.  We brought on experts in chemistry, biology, oceanography, ecology, engineering, logistics, genetics, biotech, materials science, carbon accounting, software, sensors, hardware, shipping, forestry, commercialization, policy, and operations. 

That team set out to connect every element of a value chain that is required to deliver the first credit and then billions more. This has been a comprehensive process— utilizing best available science and expanding, together with our partners, the frontiers of what is possible and necessary.

Delivering the first carbon removal in the ocean meant listening to the market and customers to understand what they wanted from a carbon removal credit. Building an independent Scientific Advisory Board to work with our 13 in-house PhDs to identify and build off the best available science. Developing the first-of-its-kind Framework Protocol for multi-pathway ocean carbon removal in compliance with ISO 14064-2. Developing a Responsible Sourcing Strategy, and working with forestry partners in Canada to grow, harvest, mill, and then capture 38,000 tons of the wood waste from that process to serve as the base of our carbon buoys.

It meant testing the reactive properties of multiple alkaline minerals in our custom-built ocean biogeochemistry lab to coat our wood carbon buoys. Cataloging and analyzing every possible environmental exposure our system could have, then developing methods to mitigate those potential exposures through system design. Building multiple research partnerships across the globe with leading marine research institutions to analyze the impact our system has on the bottom of the ocean. Establishing Governance Principles to provide guardrails to ensure our work has its intended positive impact.

It meant engaging with and hiring locals, and getting feedback from the community in Akranes, Iceland, and obtaining the first permit of its kind anywhere in the world to perform field trials in the open ocean

It meant building and then refining Earth system models to help us select the best deployment locations based on dynamic weather and ocean sea surface conditions, and to ensure the carbon buoys we deployed ended up in the slow carbon cycle. Then testing and retesting the carbon buoys in custom-built wave tanks to understand how long they float in different sea surface conditions. 

It meant standing up a field operation to transform 38,000 tons of natural material into carbon buoys, measuring every aspect of the operation to understand the emissions, and refining the production process to improve output from 80 tons of material a day to 1,000 tons a day. It meant buying heavy machinery, loading them with sensors, building 3D models of vessels loaded with carbon buoys, and collecting hundreds of materials samples to be tested (and retested) in third-party labs to quantify the exact amount of carbon we moved into the slow cycle. 

It meant pioneering new low-cost sensors and building platforms to send that data back up to a centralized data system from the middle of the North Atlantic via satellites. Developing a sensor that gave us the highest resolution data of sea surface roughness in the world. Building and then rebuilding a verification ocean satellite fleet that gave us an unprecedented live feed of underwater imagery that we could run through an in-house built machine vision system. All to answer the question of when and where our carbon buoys moved, and when and where they sank. 

It meant building the first quantification methodology of its kind that enables us to leverage the data from our sensors and models to conservatively quantify every aspect of the system so that we can deliver proof of work to a customer that demonstrates with data the net amount of carbon that was transferred from the fast to slow carbon cycle on their behalf. 

At Running Tide, our carbon removal credit isn’t just a certificate. It’s the fully quantified measurement of our negative carbon supply chain in which wood residues from Canada are combined with alkaline minerals from Sweden and the UK at our processing site in Iceland and deployed 190 miles south into the North Atlantic, where they are monitored by a custom-built fleet of ocean satellites. It’s the full internalization of all the externalities our operation could have. IIt’s a starting point of a process where we deploy, learn, iterate, and evolve with a clear goal: remove carbon and restore ocean health. 

Climate change is Godzilla. No walls will keep him out. If humanity is to give him more than a paper cut, we must enlist nature in the fight.

If that’s something you are interested in, join the slow carbon movement – we are taking orders. 

Killing Godzilla, 100 Tonnes of Carbon at a Time
Jordan Breighner
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