Ivy Protocol x UNDO: An Ancient Solution to Modern Climate Crisis — Enhanced Rock Weathering

Ivy Protocol
8 min readAug 23, 2023

Author: Ieva Blazauskaite (Marketing Lead, Ivy Protocol) with Peter Olivier (Head of New Markets, UNDO)

Today, we’re taking a journey, not through the vast expanse of cutting-edge tech, but rather through the exciting wilderness of our own planet’s natural processes. One such process seamlessly weaves into our expedition — rock weathering, a phenomenon that is older than your great-great-great (multiply that by a few thousand) grandparents.

Our guides for this adventure are the innovative minds at UNDO, a carbon removal company that’s bringing this age-old process into the limelight, and notably supplying to industry leaders such as Microsoft. Recently, we had the privilege of having a fascinating conversation with Peter Olivier, the Head of New Markets at UNDO, about his work, the mission of UNDO, and the incredible potential that the Earth’s geology holds for helping us reduce our carbon footprint.

The Path to Carbon Solutions: Inside Peter’s Journey with Rock Weathering at UNDO

Peter’s journey with UNDO began with an investigation into enhanced rock weathering — a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technique that leverages existing industries like mining and agriculture — and its potential to provide a scalable, effective solution to the climate crisis.

UNDO’s focus on enhanced rock weathering developed from the realization that conventional strategies, like mass tree planting, could not alone counter the massive amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

‘Even if we were to plant trees everywhere, that still wouldn’t be enough. While it would be a boon for a myriad of reasons — habitat, biodiversity, and numerous other invaluable benefits — when we look at the size of the problem, there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Even ubiquitous tree planting would leave us with an excess of carbon dioxide.’ (Peter, UNDO)

This led the team to consider larger-scale CDR strategies, with a focus on enhanced rock weathering. The method is a turbocharged version of nature’s own process, where carbonic acid — formed from dissolved carbon dioxide and rainwater — reacts with mineral bases like calcium and magnesium on the surface of silicate rocks. Just as we grind coffee beans to extract flavors more efficiently, UNDO grinds specific types of rock to increase the surface area available for weathering, thereby accelerating carbon capture from geological to human timescales.

Unlocking the Potential of Basalt

Why basalt? Basalt is a type of silicate rock that is rich in minerals that quickly react with carbon dioxide and store significant amounts of carbon. It is also common. Basalt is formed by cooling lava, so wherever you have volcanic activity, you find basalt.

Enhanced rock weathering is not just a tool in the fight against climate change. It also has the potential to enrich our farmlands with vital micro and macronutrients. Because the rocks take time to break down, they release the minerals they contain slowly: picture it as a slow-release, mineral-rich supplement for the soil. The alkalinity released into the soil pore water during weathering can help adjust soil pH, potentially reducing or even eliminating the need for lime application.

These benefits not only provide cost savings for farmers but also nurture a healthier, more sustainable farming landscape. It’s not just about a quick fix, but a method for improving soil health over years and potentially decades.

The scope of this carbon capture pathway is vast. As long as there’s soil — particularly farmland where fertilizer or lime are already being spread — enhanced rock weathering can be applied. The slow-release mechanism could potentially replace chemical fertilizers in the future, promoting soil health while also pulling carbon from the atmosphere.

As we move forward, however, there’s an underscored need to respect and care for the farming community, whose members already face numerous risks. To make enhanced rock weathering beneficial for farmers, further rigorous scientific study is still needed.

Fig. 1. The Process of Enhanced Rock Weathering. By Ivy Protocol, 2023

Navigating the Scalability of Enhanced Rock Weathering

Scaling up innovative carbon dioxide removal techniques like enhanced rock weathering isn’t an easy task, but it may not be as hard as it seems; enhanced rock weathering has the distinctive advantage that many of the necessary components already exist.

‘There’s a lot of really interesting and exciting companies doing carbon capture. But one of the things that’s really exciting about enhanced rock weathering is how many pieces of the puzzle are already in place.’ (Peter, UNDO)

This lightbulb moment brings us to consider the big players — aggregate and agriculture companies already operating on a gigaton scale. These companies aren’t just huge; they’re sleeping giants full of untapped potential. Leveraging existing infrastructure, they could lead the charge in driving carbon removal into new markets and the field to a significant scale.

UNDO brings a fresh perspective on heavy industries. It’s a big shift — from seeing these industries as part of the climate problem to looking at them as part of the solution. These massive operations can be key players in our battle against climate change.

Put simply, the future is not about throwing out the old, but about making it work in new ways. It’s about taking what we’ve got — these huge industries — and finding a new role for them. One that doesn’t just help their bottom line, but also the very world we live in. That’s the future UNDO is actively working towards.

A Fresh Perspective on Voluntary Carbon Markets

One of the pivotal components to expanding this market involves fostering a more intimate connection between companies and their carbon-related endeavors. The prevailing method, largely centered around offsetting with a disconnected exchange of benefits, has shown its constraints.

Consider a large shrimp company aiming to offset its emissions. A meticulously planned program such as mangrove restoration could offer benefits extending beyond simple carbon sequestration–some prawns spend a few months as juveniles in mangrove areas before they migrate offshore for the rest of their lives. This kind of strategic initiative could potentially enhance the population of commercially valuable prawns, thereby aligning closely with the company’s central business objectives. In marrying environmental preservation with business strategy, such a project not only assists the planet and meets carbon goals, but could also yield a positive return on investment by increasing the prawn harvest over time. The narrative then shifts from mere offsetting to integration, positioning sustainability as an indispensable part of business success.

The real challenge is reshaping both the conversation and the strategy surrounding the voluntary carbon market. It’s about transitioning from a public relations-driven model to a more dynamic framework that delivers substantial, direct, and tangible advantages to businesses.

Addressing the Two Key Industry Risks

The path toward effective carbon dioxide removal (CDR) presents two significant hurdles. On one side, there’s doubt: is CDR real? On the other hand, there’s the danger of irrelevance: can CDR scale up to meet our climate crisis?

Pursuing 100% accuracy in carbon credits could slow down our progress significantly. Conversely, trading in ‘almost-certain’ carbon credits runs the risk of eroding market trust. Thus, we are presented with a scenario where credibility and daring, integrity and boldness must be carefully balanced. We need to dream bigger and strive for more but without compromising the trust we’ve laboriously cultivated. It’s this high-stakes dynamic that will inevitably shape the future of CDR.

The Potential of Forward Financing in Carbon Dioxide Removal

As companies like UNDO work towards scalable carbon dioxide removal techniques, new opportunities are emerging for collaboration and support. One such promising development is the work of our team at Ivy Protocol.

Ivy is developing the crucial infrastructure needed to bridge the gap between pre-certified environmental projects and the funding and resources they require. Our startup aims to streamline this process, making it quicker, more reliable, and easier to manage.

Although Ivy is currently focused on Blue Carbon, the future is limitless. Forward financing could enable CDR project developers to accelerate their missions and achieve their goals more efficiently.

Just as UNDO unlocks the potential of our planet’s inherent processes, Ivy Protocol leverages technology to unlock funding and resources. Both are essential components in the quest to unlock scale while confronting and mitigating the climate crisis.

Symbiosis Among All Climate Initiatives

A powerful takeaway is that climate solutions, from Afforestation to Enhanced Rock Weathering, are complementary, not competitive.

Firstly, there isn’t a single pool of resources to be divided. That is because stakeholders have varied interests and passions, leading to different priorities for investment.

Secondly, success in one area, like CDR, is intrinsically tied to success in others. For example, Mangrove ecosystems (current Ivy’s focus) rely on a balance of atmospheric and oceanic carbon to sequester carbon effectively. As Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) strategies, such as Enhanced Rock Weathering, aim to lower carbon dioxide levels, they protect mangrove forests against sea-level rise while safeguarding them from the indirect threats of ocean acidification, both consequences of elevated carbon dioxide. Thus, the effectiveness of mangrove (re)establishment hinges on the success of CDR strategies, highlighting their interconnected relationship.

Looking ahead, unity and mutual accomplishments should be our guiding principles. With scientists predicting the need for atmospheric carbon removal to increase up to 10 GtCO2 annually by 2050, and a surge to 20 GtCO2 per year by 2100, the symbiosis among all climate initiatives becomes not just advantageous but essential for our collective success.

The path forward is intricate and demands continued research and collaboration, yet the potential for markedly reducing our carbon footprint through the Earth’s geological processes provides a thrilling new direction in the battle against climate change. By exploring these natural pathways and fostering symbiosis among all climate initiatives, we unveil a landscape ripe with promise and innovation. As we navigate an era characterized by urgency and creative thinking, it seems that the solution to our carbon conundrum might indeed be grounded in the age-old rocks beneath our feet.

If you’re a project developer or investor, Ivy Protocol invites you to join us in bridging the gap between pre-certified environmental projects and the funding they require. If you’re interested in accelerating UNDO’s work and intrigued by the transformative potential of enhanced rock weathering, UNDO welcomes your partnership. Together, we can unlock the promise and innovation hidden in the very core of our planet.

Contact Peter at peter@un-do.com, or the UNDO team at hello@un-do.com.

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Ivy is building the infrastructure to connect pre-certified environmental projects with funding and resources — quicker, reliable, and easier to manage.