Ranmarine’s MegaShark, a Marine Trash Collection Catamaran, is Enhancing Sustainability Initiatives, Says Clean-Tech Investor Rajat Khare 

Marine Trash Collection

Close to 200 million tons of plastic waste are in our oceans. Around 33 billion pounds of plastic enter marine environment every year. By 2050, it is projected that plastic will likely outweigh all fish in the sea!

May 25 marked the International Plastic Free Day, an annual reminder to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of plastic waste on humans as well as marine life.

In late 2022, scientists published a study with startling results – Human blood was found to include plastic. Plastic particles were discovered in 17 of the 22 anonymous, healthy adult participants’ blood samples. Humans who eat seafood are also eating their own waste.

Our oceans, seas, great lakes and waterways have become a dumping ground where everything from plastics to toxic metals ends up. Our behaviour has become self-destructive and has resulted in contaminated seafood, massive dead zones and compromised biodiversity. 

National Geographic estimates that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic trash in the ocean. For some perspective, there are roughly 656 times as much plastic in the ocean as there are people on earth. And the impact is deadly.

A young pregnant sperm whale was found dead with 22 kg of plastic in its stomach along the coast of Porto Cervo, the famous tourist destination in Sardinia, Italy. This is only one example.

There is a strong demand from governments, environmentalists and citizens to keep our oceans clean and preserve the biodiversity and critical services they provide to life. Many emerging start-ups and organizations are changing the landscape of ocean conservation by developing innovative AI monitoring techniques and robotic technologies to identify pollution in our oceans and waterways and provide an expedited approach to cleaning it up.

Ranmarine Technologies, a leading Netherlands-based marine garbage collection and cleaning tech firm, recently developed MegaShark, an electrically-operated robot engineered for targeted waste removal in challenging environments with the ability to navigate confined areas where debris tends to accumulate. This is an upgraded version of Waste Shark, Ranmarine’s earlier product.

“The idea behind MagaShark is to empower individuals and organisations worldwide to restore the natural state of aquatic environments. Our mission revolves around developing advanced technologies specifically designed for clearing pollution, bio-waste, and debris from waterways”.

Equipped with cutting-edge battery technology, MegaShark operates emission-free for up to eight hours, mitigating environmental damage often associated with traditional diesel or petrol-powered boats.

Ranmarine Technology is one of the world’s first commercially available cleaning ASV (Autonomous Surface Vessel), serving clients across continents. Its growth has been powered by venture capitalists and investors who’ve worked collaboratively with the company in its journey.

Rajat Khare, a venture capitalist and founder of Boundary Holding, a Luxembourg-based deep-tech company, believes feels Ranmarine can potentially become the market leader.

“When we first looked at Ranmarine, we identified three key indicators that aligns with our investment philosophy. The approach of the management, the social problem they were solving and their climate-consciousness. Funding clean technologies is key to facilitating the energy transition.

He added: “although, while cleanup technologies have a role to play in cleaning up ocean plastic, no single solution can effectively reduce ocean plastic. What is required is fundamental and systemic change that includes the banning of single-use plastics in favour of products designed to be recycled or repaired, and more recycling infrastructure”.

Meanwhile, Ichthion, a UK-based start-up developing cutting-edge technologies to restore the ocean environment, has developed Azure, a tech designed to intercept waste in two major Ecuadorian rivers, before it is carried out on ocean currents to the famously biodiverse Galapagos Islands. This invention also uses a barrier to direct waste onto conveyor belts, which run along the riverbank, and deposit it into receptacles.

“What you take out of rivers, what you find along the riverbanks… the majority of this will all end up in the ocean,” says Inty Grønneberg, founder and chief executive of Ichthion, a name derived from ichthyology, the study of fish. “Our idea is to prevent ocean-bound plastic.

He added: “Tackling the production of plastics is one of several problems to address. It’s also an issue of poor or non-existent waste management systems in places like Ecuador and other developing countries”.

Then there’s Hoola One, a Canadian invention to tackle the huge problem of microplastics embedded in beach sand. This hoover-like contraption sucks up sand, then uses a tank of water to separate floating microplastics from sinking natural material, which is returned to the beach.

However a number of such tech firms will need to shift from burying the marine debris under the land, a process called landfill, and move towards a more sustainable model. Under this, firms are focusing on innovative solutions for sustainability and waste reduction, like waste-to-energy services. They specialize in cleaning debris, recycling, and reusing to empower clients with eco-friendly practices. 

Meanwhile, the European Space Agency (ESA) is putting its satellites to the test. In recent research, they showed they were able to train satellites, using machine learning, to identify the unique optical signatures that plastic pollution creates when viewed from above. This has enabled the ESA to track plastic waste from thousands of kilometres above – generating a truly global perspective on the problem.

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