Microsoft is betting on algae to tackle its growing carbon footprint.


Like many of its peers in the tech industry, Microsoft has a carbon pollution problem.

Despite the company’s promise to become carbon negative by 2030, the software giant’s emissions are increasing. Ocean.

Running Tide, which works with Stripe and Shopify, uses this money to lock in huge amounts of carbon dioxide. Running Tide says it does this through efforts such as growing the algae on a canal called a biodegradator, with the intention that the algae will eventually sink to the ocean floor. The startup has a white paper in the works, but if you want more details, here’s what its head of business development, Jordan Brager, told TechCrunch today:

“By combining wood and alkaline minerals, we make a small carbon float that we seed with algae and take out into the open ocean,” Bregner said. “The buoy floats, dissolves alkaline minerals, reduces ocean acidity and carbon in a process called ocean alkalinity enhancement. Algae grow rapidly, absorbing CO2. In less than three months, buoys and algae and fixed carbon sink to the bottom of the ocean, and if they sink below 1,000 meters, the carbon is lost for 1,000 years.

“But not all buoys are seeded,” Bregner added. “It depends on the ocean conditions that are suitable for algae growth.”

In general, the carbon removal business is still in its infancy. It has yet to be proven that it can sustainably extract carbon at the rate it eventually aims to achieve. Some scientists worry that fully developed venture-backed sequestration schemes, such as giant kelp farms, could inadvertently damage ocean ecosystems, MIT Technology Review reported last year.

So far, Bregner says, the tidal wave “has only removed less than 1,000 tons of carbon through experimental and research deployments.” The startup plans to dispose of up to 12,000 tons over two years for Microsoft alone.

The deal is worth in the single-digit millions, Running Tide said. A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment on the price.

Microsoft’s latest sustainability report showed a 21.5% increase in emissions from 2020 to 2021, which the software giant attributed to data center development and more customers using its products more frequently. In other words, Microsoft grew its cloud and gaming businesses, and its net output rose at the same rate. The company aims to become carbon negative within the next seven years, and its plan to get there hinges on carbon removal.


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