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Big corporate buyers pump $57 million into startup's volcanic solution to air pollution — here's how it also helps farmers

It's an example of how powerful corporations can invest in work that benefits the entire planet.

It’s an example of how powerful corporations can invest in work that benefits the entire planet.

Photo Credit: Lithos Carbon

A group of well-known businesses are making a more than $57 million investment in rock dust with planet-cleaning properties. Oddly, the news could also impact your menu. 

Known as Frontier, the buyers include Stripe, Alphabet, JPMorgan Chase, and others, as reported by Bloomberg. They plan to fund a concept from startup Lithos Carbon that leverages the power of natural basalt to capture air pollution in farm fields.

The plan pays the San Francisco startup millions, with the goal of removing 154,000 tons of air pollution from the atmosphere by 2028, as Bloomberg reports, and sending it back into the ground and eventually to the ocean. 

The Yale-developed technology works by leveraging basalt, an abundant volcanic rock and a waste byproduct at quarries. By spreading basalt dust — which is full of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium — on farm fields, it adds nutrients to the land as it "decomposes and sequesters" carbon pollution, according to Lithos. 

It's an example of how powerful corporations can invest in work that benefits the entire planet. While carbon capture isn't a new concept — the government is investing billions in tech to suck pollution from the air, for example — Lithos' method is unique because it is also geared to increase crop yields, per the company. 

"Lithos has demonstrated an impressive ability to execute," Frontier head Nan Ransohoff told Bloomberg. "While many other companies focus exclusively on modeling, Lithos relies very heavily on measuring carbon removal using this novel technique."

Lithos' system works with unique chemistry involving silicate minerals in the rock dust. With a little rain, the crushed basalt absorbs carbon dioxide. The technical term for the process is "enhanced rock weathering." 

It starts when Lithos experts put together a dusting plan with farmers to create the best benefit for crops. After the air pollution is absorbed, the experts "trace captured carbon" from field runoff to streams, rivers, and eventually the ocean, using soil samples and other tech. About a ton of polluting carbon dioxide can be captured for every three tons of basalt dust put down, all per Lithos. 

"We take these soil samples, bring that to our laboratories to understand how fast the rock that we've applied is dissolving [and] how fast it is capturing carbon," Lithos founder and CEO Mary Yap said in the Bloomberg story. 

Frontier intends to spend upward of a billion dollars on carbon capture work, creating a market that ensures the development of the tech, per a story published by Yahoo Finance. 

Lithos is already applying rock dust to fields for 80 farmers in nine states, Bloomberg reports

Frontier's latest deal is among several in the carbon capture sector for the buyer's group. The investors seem to be betting on the market growing as governments try to slow planet overheating to avoid worst-case environmental scenarios.

"We're thrilled to have Frontier's support in scaling transparent and scientifically rigorous removal," Yap said in a Lithos press release. 

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