NetZero, selected from over a thousand entries, has won one of fifteen $1 million grants offered by the Musk Foundation as part of a competition dedicated to CO2 capture projects.
A leader in carbon sequestration
Founded in 2021 by Axel Reinaud, Aimé Njiakin, Pr. Jean Jouzel and Olivier Reinaud, NetZero aims to deploy biochar on a large scale in tropical zones. Little known, this stabilized carbon concentrate derived from the pyrolysis of agricultural residues is proving highly effective at sequestering CO2. In a 2018 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that biochar solutions deployed on a global scale could extract up to 2 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year.
More precisely, biochar stores the carbon captured by plants from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Its porous structure helps improve water and nutrient retention for plants. Biochar is therefore invaluable to farmers, particularly in tropical zones, NetZero's preferred regions.
To deploy biochar production on a large scale in tropical regions, the French startup relies primarily on the sale of carbon credits to companies. At the end of 2021, the company announced the launch of a first unit in Nkongsamba, Cameroon, through which it plans to produce over 2,000 tonnes of biochar. The company also plans to set up operations in Brazil, and hopes to sequester 1 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030.
NetZero catches Elon Musk's eye
To finance its projects, NetZero is preparing a Series A financing round. The start-up had already raised 5 million euros in the seed phase and recently obtained 1 million euros from the XPrize foundation, as part of a competition for CO2 capture solutions launched in partnership with Elon Musk.
[BIG NEWS!] NetZero is extremely proud to announce it has been selected as one of the world's leading carbon-removal companies in @ElonMusk's @XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition, among more than 1,100 projects.#NetZero #XPRIZECarbonRemoval #Biochar #ElonMusk pic.twitter.com/dK9DGMgZOx- NetZero (@NetZero) April 22, 2022
By 2025, the three most promising projects will still be able to share a 100 million euro grant. This award has boosted the startup's credibility with investors. Jean Jouzel, former vice-president of the IPCC scientific working group, is now one of the four founders.
The climatologist wants to " support a project that ticks all the boxes: long-term CO2 storage, energy production, improved agricultural production ".
NetZero aims to tackle three major challenges in developing countries:
The Sonar Impulse label and the €1 million prize awarded by the XPrize foundation should help him achieve these objectives. In France, Axel Reinaud recently had a meeting with Elisabeth Borne to promote biochar and the solutions proposed by NetZero.