Use of volcanic rock dust in the fields for carbon capture
Use of volcanic rock dust in the fields for carbon capture benefits farmers and the environment alike
Since time immemorial, farmers have been using different types of soil and rocks to cultivate their plots. Minerals in rock dust, such as calcium and magnesium from basalt, serve as natural fertilizers and de-acidifying agents for the soil before crops are planted. Lithos, derived from the Greek word for “rock”, is a startup in the United States aiming to unleash the potential of rock dust in capturing carbon from the atmosphere.
(Photo from Lithos)
During rainfall, some of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with rainwater falls to the ground. The chemical reaction between the rocks and the rainwater “traps” the CO2 in the soil. However, the natural process usually lasts for several years. The startup aims to speed up the slow carbon sequestration process by 100 to 1,000 times, according to the Lithos CEO Mary Yap.
Their startup accelerates carbon sequestration by spreading basalt rock dust on crop land, carefully planned using latest soil models and machine learning to ensure the most efficient carbon sequestration while maximizing the benefits it yields to crops. Lithos is now working with 14 farms across the US in a bid to study ways on how they can maximize their impact. However, no matter how noble this initiative can be for the environment, Yap emphasized the need to explain the direct benefits the farmers can get from applying rock dust in their fields. “My approach to this is if you can give farmers something that they will want and love and need, then they will do that,” she says.