Ocean Seeding Startup Climos Looking to Raise More Funds

Ocean seeding startup Climos said back in March that it had become the world’s first venture capital-backed startup planning to attempt the controversial technique of fertilizing the oceans with iron to fight climate change; Climos was able to convince Tesla Chairman Elon Musk and Braemar Energy Ventures to fund its carbon-storing plan. Now Climos’ CEO Dan Whaley (who we named in our 25 Who Ditched Infotech for Cleantech) tells us the company is looking to raise another round in the fall to help it meet regulatory hurdles to start testing its project.

According to a pamphlet from the Dow Jones Environmental Ventures conference, Climos is aiming to raise between $8 million and $10 million in a Series B funding round that it will look to close in the first quarter of 2009. The round will be open to new investors. Whaley told us in March that its next round could be as high as $12 million to $14 million.

Research into iron ocean seeding has been largely done by government scientists in the past, and another startup, Planktos, which had similar aims as Climos, actually went dead in the water because it was unable to raise any funding.

Climos is likely to have a more successful fund-raising than its defunct competitor; Planktos was accused throughout the media as having some shady tactics, and blamed a “disinformation campaign” by “anti-offset crusaders” for its demise. While the ocean seeding technique is highly controversial, Climos’ CEO Whaley is trying to make sure the company’s project is done in a fully transparent and science-based manner (our Q&A with Whaley here).

How does the ocean seeding technique work? Plankton use nutrients like iron to grow, so by adding more iron to the oceans this could cause more plankton blooms. Plankton in turn eat CO2 throughout their short lifecycle, die and then sink down to the depths of the ocean, theoretically storing the carbon. Climos plans to sell carbon credits (they’re calling them Climosets) from the project.

Climos raised its first funding of $3.5 million in order to complete an environmental impact study, develop workshops with research organizations, and apply for international permits to start work. This next set of funding will help the company get that much closer to testing and, if successful, implementing the project. Whaley told us in March the company will start demonstrations of its technique in 2009.

Climos venture investors are already well known names, so that should also help the startup raise more money from new investors. Its most prominent investor is Elon Musk, who also builds rockets with SpaceX and electric vehicles with Tesla.

Climos doesn’t like to call its project “geo-engineering”, or producing large-scale modifications of the global environment. But there is still a lot of controversy around how this technique will affect the environment, and how effective the plankton carbon sequestration process really is. That’s why Climos needs funds to find the answers to these questions. Check out Whaley’s presentation at the Dow Jones conference down in San Mateo at 12:15 today.