As the climate crisis descends upon us, it’s vital to do what we can to cut greenhouse gases. However, it’s not happening fast enough. Thus, top minds around the world are focusing on different ways to rid us of key problems. One of the key creative minds and proven leaders working on this is Ram Amar, the CEO of Rewind.earth, a carbon removal startup based in Israel. I learned about Rewind when I joined a group of climate journalists through the Jerusalem Press Club to explore some of the most exciting breakthrough climate innovations. We met with Ram Amar and learned about what he and the Rewind team are doing.
Ram’s background is in physics, computer science and entrepreneurship. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and served for 11 years in the IDF Intelligence Corps (Talpiot). Since then, he went on to a highly successful private sector career. Since selling his previous startup, Alooma, to Google, Ram has turned to work on mitigating the climate crisis. Ram co-founded a think tank and advocacy project for a Net Zero Israel, started a community of entrepreneurs transitioning to climate-tech.
After three years of research, Ram co-founded Rewind. Today he says he can’t be more excited to wake up every day and work on this unprecedented challenge of humanity. I am delighted to share this new Q&A with him.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi: What is the specific problem that you/your company is trying to solve?
Ram Amar: We are building a solution to the problem of unavoidable emissions (historical & hard to abate), by removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it away for thousands of years. This problem is largely categorized as carbon dioxide removal, or CDR.
How do you solve it?
Inspired by nature and theories of how oil was originally created, we are collecting residual wood from forestry and agriculture, and storing in the deep, anoxic (oxygen depleted) Black Sea. All rivers basically do this – carry organic matter (fallen branches, leaves, dead organisms) out to the sea – and the Black Sea is a huge natural carbon sink which we can utilize.
Why is solving this problem important to you? Why should others care?
We realized that reducing emissions to zero is not just super difficult, it is also not enough. According to the IPCC, to mitigate global warming we must be able to remove CO2 in the order of 10 gigatons per year, by 2050. To build an industry the size of global agriculture in 30 years from scratch is a challenge we felt we can make a big impact in.
What proof/studies show that your solution has potential/works?
The first “living” proof which drew our attention to the Black Sea is the wooden shipwrecks remarkably preserved for +2,000 years on the bottom of the Black Sea. We searched the existing literature and found the existing science (summarized in a scientific literature review which I can share). And then we knew we have to provide more accurate scientific proof of our own. We performed several experiments, all with the same concept: place various types of plants in anoxic water, and measure their dry mass over time as an indication for decomposition. We started in the Sea of Galilee, and in a fjord in the Baltic Sea, then we deployed a yearlong experiment in the Black Sea. The results of these experiments are published on our website blog, but in one line: oak wood preserved 97% of its mass over a period of 11 months at 250m depth in the Black Sea. This isn’t enough for us, so we are continuing with analyzing samples of ancient wood (retrieved from similar preserved shipwrecks), and our next big experiment will also be in the Black Sea, and will focus on environmental effects. Ultimately, we are looking to demonstrate that our CDR method is both permanent (carbon preserved for thousands of years) and environmentally safe.
How do you go about doing this?
The science described above is currently our driver of growth and progress. With the scientific data we generate and collect, we work with local governments and communities to acquire gradually increasing deep sea biomass storage licenses. We also work with the carbon markets and certification organizations to draft a globally acknowledged standard/protocol/methodology, describing how our method should be implemented, monitored and audited. Lastly, we are also iteratively building our technology for measuring and monitoring this method, and reach out to local agriculture, forestry, trucking and shipping companies to start building the actual operation.
What have been some of your biggest successes?
The year long Black Sea experiment definitely a big success. Also testing our sinking concepts which aim to sink biomass only, without any ballasting weights. We have also managed to develop good relationships with local governments, marine research organizations, and environmental groups.
With any start up, there are times when you hit brick wall. Can you give us an example of that and how you pivoted to do something that worked better?
Originally, we assumed any type of plant, when put in water without oxygen, would just preserve 100% of its mass. Our first experiments already demonstrated that this theory wasn’t accurate. So, we decided to focus on the type of biomass which preserves the best – wood – and to start researching a second layer of preservation based on the mixing patterns of the Black Sea’s waters.
As you move ahead, are you looking for partners? Where and how others can help?
Yes, we are looking for partners to our scientific research. The science is key to our success and we are happy to collaborate and be as transparent as possible. We are also looking to partner with other companies who can promote sustainable practices in the countries in which we operate. Anything from reforestation companies, to companies promoting regenerative agriculture, and to companies providing renewable energy solutions for rural communities.
What is your advice for other people who are just getting their start on climate issues?
Read “How to prevent a climate disaster” and and “Speed & Scale“, then chose a field where you naturally are interested in, and start digging in that direction. Whether you want to start or join a company, you will find something. There’s so much to do and so many technologies to replace, that it’s not a question of “where to focus” but more “how deep to focus”. In any vertical of life, there are climate solutions which are yet to be developed.
If folks want to know more about your company, how where can they find information or connect?