Lithos Carbon, a US-based startup transforming farmland into carbon removal centers using the power of volcanic rocks, aims to capture 10,000 tons of carbon this year, its chief executive said.

“We’re aiming to try to capture about 10,000 tonnes of carbon this year, keep measuring the crop yield benefits that we’re generating for local farmers and bring as much revenue as possible to farmers of all sizes from these carbon credits that we sell,” Lithos Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Mary Yap told TechNode Global. “Part of our mission is to bring capital from the coast of America inwards to rural growers.”

Lithos accelerates mineral weathering by spreading basalt on croplands to increase dissolved inorganic carbon with eventual storage as ocean carbonates. Its technology uses novel soil models and machine learning to maximize carbon dioxide (CO₂) removal while boosting crop growth.

Basalt is the most abundant volcanic rock on earth, loaded with essential plant nutrients like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. Applying basalt rock dust provides a steady nutrient flow to farmers’ fields as it decomposes and sequesters carbon. According to Lithos’ website, silicate minerals in crushed basalt permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through a natural process called “enhanced rock weathering”.

“It was done through a process called ‘enhanced rock weathering’. We use special volcanic rocks to trap carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere at a very fast rate. And then that carbon dioxide is stored for 10,000 years or longer. So it’s permanent carbon removal,” Yap said in an interview at the sidelines of DLD Conference in Munich last month.

“We use a crushed up form of volcanic basalt and then we spread it in certain settings where it will capture carbon as fast as possible. We then empirically measure that, so we can validate the carbon we’re removing, and at the same time we improve crop yields for farmers,” she explained.

With three tons of basalt application one can capture up to a ton of carbon dioxide. Lithos’ software optimizes both for crop yield and carbon capture — making farmers’ land as productive as possible while farmers earn revenue from carbon removal, information from its website showed.

“Our [ultimate] goal is to get to a billion tons of carbon captured as quickly as possible, and to bring together the right partners and the right scientific innovations to make that possible. I think that’s going to take an enormous effort. Human beings have never done this before. It’s truly a moonshot,” Yap said.

The climate and agritech startup announced in October last year that it has secured $6.29 million in capital to scale deployment of its enhanced rock weathering process for transforming farmland into carbon capture centers while increasing crop yields.

The seed round investment was led by Union Square Ventures and Greylock Partners with participation from Bain Capital Ventures, and climate and agriculture funds Carbon Removal Partners, Fall Line Capital, the Carbon Drawdown Initiative, and Cavallo Ventures. Lithos represents both Greylock Partners’ and Bain Capital Ventures’ first-ever climate investment. The company plans to use the capital for expanding its team, to fulfill its current waitlist, expand to additional farms and geographies, and acquire additional raw materials.

Commenting on its future fundraising plan, Yap said,”We’ve got actually like three years of runway at the moment. So we don’t necessarily need to fundraise immediately, but depending on how fast we want to grow, we might fundraise sooner.”

The next stage will be a Series A funding round and the funds raised will be used to expand into new markets, research and development, further optimize its system, among others, she said.

Yap noted the importance to get the right partners in order for the company to hit its goal.

“We want to partner with the right agricultural channel partners. For example, we’re already partner with Yara which is one of the world’s oldest agriculture companies in the world,” she said. “We’re working on other partners that will help us scale.”

Based on decades of academic research, Lithos’ engineered biogeochemical process uses volcanic basalt to capture and permanently lock away atmospheric carbon.

Compared with other carbon capture solutions, Lithos’ enhanced rock weathering is cost efficient and scalable, at a cost 5 times less expensive than direct air capture.

It is also faster, significantly accelerating the nature-based process of rock weathering, achieving in two to three years what takes 15 to 50 year timescales in other rock weathering deployments, and 100 to 1000 times faster than in nature. The method is also more effective, locking away carbon dioxide permanently, with storage lifetimes exceeding 100,000 years.

Yap said Lithos is “live” across the United States, primarily in the Midwest and the East Coast at the moment, the company is interested to expanding to other markets including Asia and Southeast Asia.

“I think the Chinese market could be interesting, I would have to look at the basalt sources there. I think we’d be very open to partnerships, to licence out our technology,” she said.

Lithos was co-founded in March 2022 by Yap, Dr. Noah Planavsky and Dr. Chris Reinhard. The team brings together operational and academic expertise across geology, planetary science, urban research, geochemistry and atmospheric sciences. Yap is a published author of climate research and a second-time startup founder. Her family are generational farmers in Taiwan. Reinhard and Planavsky hail from the Midwest originally and both are tenured professors: Reinhard is an Associate Professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech while Planavsky is an Associate Professor, Earth & Planetary Sciences at Yale. Together the pair co-invented Lithos’ predictive management and pH buffering software and the isotope dilution technology that enables precise verification of carbon removal in soil.

Yap is one of the speakers at the DLD Conference held between January 12 and 14 in Munich, Germany. Founded in 2005 as an intimate gathering of friends, DLD (Digital – Life – Design) has developed into Europe’s leading innovation conference for visionaries from around the globe.

Co-chairs Steffi Czerny and Yossi Vardi have created an interdisciplinary and internationally connected platform for people eager to change the world in the digital era. The conference aims to connect the unexpected, presenting insights from business and politics, science and art. It also aims to spark conversations that cross boundaries and bring participants together in a common search for answers to the most challenging questions that arise through digital change.

featured photo credits: Free press image © Picture Alliance for DLD / Hubert Burda Media

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