How this ecologist is scaling volcanic rock dust to UNDO CO2 emissions

Get to know our speaker Jim Mann, a pioneer in nature-based carbon removal

With a background in ecology and scaling businesses, Jim Mann is a pioneer in nature-based carbon removal.

After founding and building the Future Forest Company, which focuses on large-scale reforestation and biodiversity restoration, Jim came across enhanced rock weathering (ERW). 

Back then, ERW was in the earliest stages of exploration in lab conditions by scientists and academics. 

But it soon became clear to Jim that the CO2 removal potential was far beyond reforestation alone. 

That’s why UNDO was launched in 2022 and why its mission is to remove 1 billion tonnes of CO₂.

2023 quickly became a year of breakthroughs, growth and advancement in the field of ERW for the startup rockstar.

UNDO spread 140,000 tonnes of silicate rock globally, which will permanently sequester close to 35,000 tonnes of CO₂. The mineral-rich rock is also enriching the soil of 9,000 hectares of agricultural land across 181 farms in the UK, Canada and Australia.

Also in 2023, Jim Mann joined us as a keynote speaker at the HackSummit, where he shared his bold vision for both UNDO and the potential of ERW to a full house of Climate funders and founders.

Since then, UNDO has forged groundbreaking partnerships with the likes of McLaren Racing and British Airways, while continuing carbon removal projects on behalf of Stripe and Microsoft

They also began a partnership with Canadian Wollastonite, to help scale their operations globally, where they have spread 8.5 tonnes of fast-weathering wollastonite and installed field trials to bring crucial measurement data. 

Meanwhile, they continue to refine their scientific approach to quantify their impacts in MRV for carbon capture and forge formal collaborations across companies, universities and expertise. In September, they co-authored  the Reykjavik Protocol, a cross-sector effort that addresses structural risks in the environmental credit market and sets the highest standards for these credits based on the most credible science available.  ​​. 

As Jim tells us, ‘This is going to pay dividends for ERW’s advancement much quicker than if we all worked alone. And by organising the first Global ERW conference last fall, we will continue to call for transparent and collaborative science.’

Is it really as simple as chucking rocks around a field?

Jim says it’s far from it. ‘Behind the scenes, it's an incredibly complex process. Working in open systems - in farmers' fields rather than in a lab - brings a whole host of challenges. We've got world-leading science, carbon and operations teams working on how we quantify and account for carbon in the proper way all along the supply chain. So no, it's not so simple.’

What’s the science behind this rock-solid approach to capture CO₂?

UNDO accelerates and enhances the natural weathering process by spreading crushed silicate rock, such as basalt, on agricultural land, vastly increasing the surface area of the rock and therefore increasing its contact with CO₂. 

For millions of years, CO₂ has combined with rainwater to form dilute carbonic acid. 

When this dilute acid falls on mountains, forests and grassland, the CO₂ interacts with rocks and soil, mineralises and is safely stored for hundreds of thousands of years. 

If scaled, academic studies are estimating that ERW can remove at least 4 gigatonnes of CO2 annually. 

The challenges are scientific, financial, and educational. 

Jim tells us ‘We need several years of measurement data to form a body of evidence for our Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) approach. 

With more and more data, we will steadily reduce our uncertainties and costs over time, supplementing physical measurement with increasingly accurate geochemical modelling.’ 

The business of ERW is op-ex heavy. 

Financially, UNDO is still figuring out ways to bring capital forward to scale its operations and fund its MRV. 

Much of UNDO’s spreading operations are powered by pre-purchases from climate-forward companies such as Microsoft who are willing to invest in ERW and who think longer term.

What’s next for UNDO?

UNDO is committed to working with companies that have credible sustainability and low-carbon transition plans. They are partnering with ambitious companies trying to move the decarbonisation needle as well as their hard-to-abate footprint.  

Penetrating markets around the globe and establishing a foundational partnership network of farmers, mines, quarries and agricultural communities is what Jim and his team have their eye on long-term. 

You’ll find Jim on stage at the HackSummit, this June 13-14, on a panel dedicated to ERW’s potential, where he’ll dive into the challenges and opportunities to scale this tech-infused, nature-based carbon dioxide removal solution.

Come and meet Jim alongside 1,500 founders, funders and operators in Climate in Lausanne. Use code NEWS20 to save 20% off your pass.