Old Technology Providing New Solutions – Henrietta Moon, CEO And Co-Founder Of Carbo Culture
This Earth Day, we are exploring the start-ups leading the charge in tackling some of the world’s most pressing climate challenges, and the founders behind them…
Here, we speak to Henrietta Moon, CEO and Co-Founder of Carbo Culture, a company which has developed the means to take CO₂ from the atmosphere and lock it away for good. Henrietta is an alumna of Aalto University School of Business in Finland, Vienna University of Economics and Business WU in Austria, Singularity University’s Global Solutions Programme, and Stanford’s founder community StartX. She has been recognised as a Bloomberg New Economy Catalyst 2021, and a Young European Leader 2023.
What specific environmental problems is your company addressing, and how do you plan to make a difference in these areas?
Removing carbon from the atmosphere is essential to halt global warming, which places the most vulnerable people at risk. The IPCC estimates that in addition to 80% emissions reductions, we will need to remove 1,000Gt of CO2 by 2100. In addition, we need to reach 10Gt of carbon removal every year by 2050. Today, the amount of carbon removed is less than 70,000t, only a fraction of what’s needed. 2050 is only 27 years away and scaling infrastructure takes years, in addition to policy innovations, technology development and capital.
We’re developing a scalable, quickly deployable carbon removal solution that both safely sequesters carbon from the atmosphere using the age-old technology of photosynthesis, and generates clean energy as a by-process. Unlike other technological carbon removal methods, Carbo Culture’s solution creates excess energy while safely sequestering CO2, rather than requiring energy.
In addition to carbon removal services and energy generation, we produce functional carbon material called biochar, that we use to replace fossil-fuel based carbon products.
What inspired you to start a company focused on environmental sustainability, and how did you get started?
I met my co-founder Christopher Carstens at Singularity University where we were both on a quest to have a positive impact on the world’s most pressing issues. We quickly realised that unless the climate crisis is solved, nothing else will really matter. The climate crisis is a systemic issue with too much carbon in the atmosphere, too little in the soil, and too much being emitted. We saw that biochar had the potential to provide a multifaceted solution and founded Carbo Culture in 2016. Biochar was the key to removing excess carbon from the atmosphere, putting it back to the soil and supplying the energy grid with renewable waste heat from the process. Biochar just hadn’t scaled before and that’s what we decided to do. Back then, there was no price on carbon and the whole mission felt like a moonshot. However, we were set on developing the technology that would allow biochar to scale, fast.
How did you experience at business school help you launched and run this company?
At Aalto University School of Business, I had the opportunity to study in multi-disciplinary courses, solving problems with students from different backgrounds.
During my studies, I was also deeply involved in the Aalto student entrepreneurial community Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (AaltoES) and startup conference Slush, which introduced me to the world of tech entrepreneurship and distilled in me a growth mindset and global outlook. As the community and its founders and the start ups they have also launched have matured, the community has been an invaluable source of peer-support in running Carbo Culture.
What makes your company’s approach to environmental sustainability unique or different from other solutions out there?
The challenge with biochar carbon removal is scale and efficiency. Our proprietary technology Carbolysis provides significant benefits over other state-of-the-art technology developers – thanks to our approach, we yield more carbon removal and more energy with less input, leading to optimised efficiency and better performance.
What are some of the long-term goals you have for your company, and how do you plan to achieve them?
We have three long term goals. Firstly, our north star vision is to generate 1 Gigaton of carbon removal and avoidance annually. Already by the end of the decade, our goal is to achieve 200.000 tons of annual CO2 removal.
Secondly, while reaching this goal, we want to deploy the technology globally, creating thousands of green jobs in frontline communities and enabling the green transition towards a more just and future net-zero world.
Thirdly, we are excited about the opportunities that biochar has for further climate mitigation and environmental restoration – from lowering the carbon footprint of the cement industry to reducing nitrogen oxide emissions from fertilisers in agriculture. Biochar as an additive in construction materials has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of concrete to near carbon-neutral. With biochar, we can reduce fertiliser based emissions by up to 50% globally, while helping soils heal.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a company focused on environmental sustainability?
We need more of you! The world is full of problems waiting to be solved, and entrepreneurship is a great way to create a positive impact. Please join the ranks!
One of our company values is to be science driven. For us, this means taking an honest look at what our net environmental impact is with every business decision. From cradle to grave or to a new cradle, it’s important to consider e.g. the climate, environmental and biodiversity impact of every action and take firm steps towards boosting direct impact and the positive co-benefits of your work.
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