Navigating the intricate challenges of climate change calls for innovative minds and bold initiatives. In the realm of visionary entrepreneurs, Patrick Giavelli, founder of Vaulterra, emerges as a trailblazer – driven by a deep-rooted fascination with climate topics. With a relentless desire to transform our economic system and environment, Patrick and Kallie Mingay, two members of Vaulterra’s Jumpstart team, embarked on a journey to harness the potential Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) in agriculture.
ERW is a natural and permanent solution to carbon removal that leverages the accelerated weathering of silicate minerals to draw CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in the form of bicarbonate for geological timescales. More specifically, ERW involves spreading finely milled volcanic rock dust over cropland. This process removes CO2 from the atmosphere and acts as a potent soil amendment, releasing micro/macronutrients, controlling soil pH, increasing water retention, and promoting overall soil health.
According to Patrick, there is “immense potential in novel carbon removal technologies, particularly those focused on mineralization like ERW. Indeed, conventional methods to remove CO2, such as reforestation and afforestation, are highly susceptible to weather events and store carbon for only as long as the plants are alive.”
By partnering with farmers, who often operate on low-margin businesses and face increasing instability due to climate change, Vaulterra aims to support farmers’ current practices and offer them an additional revenue source from the voluntary carbon market. Moreover, Vaulterra utilizes waste products from the mining industry, effectively repurposing them and providing secondary value by reducing emissions and dollars spent in storing and maintaining such waste streams.
Vaulterra desires to work with farmers who focus on specialty and commodity crops. The company will offer the mine waste as a soil conditioner to be applied to the farmland in accordance with the farm’s current treatment practices. Using geochemical models and simulations, Vaulterra will be able to certify sequestered carbon on the farm as carbon offsets and will seek to collaborate with companies aiming to reduce their carbon footprint, offering a cross-industry solution to combat climate change.
While Vaulterra’s mission is ambitious, it faces several challenges in pursuing a sustainable future. One significant obstacle revolves around reaching out and establishing contact with farmers and miners, as these industries typically have limited exposure to traditional communication pathways. Extensive user research becomes crucial in understanding their needs and practices. In addition, developing a robust supply network for shipping materials between mines and farms poses logistical and operational challenges that require careful planning and execution.
When asked why he applied to Jumpstart, Patrick explained, “As a student founder, I recognized the immense value and potential that Northwestern’s accelerator program offers to Vaulterra. The opportunity to receive mentorship from experienced industry professionals, access to a network of seasoned entrepreneurs, and the chance to learn from successful startup stories is truly invaluable. I wanted to surround myself with a community of like-minded individuals who share the same passion for innovation and entrepreneurship, and The Garage is the right place to do so.”
Vaulterra’s dedication to tackling climate change with its innovative carbon removal technology marks it as a trailblazer in the field. Patrick’s vision drives the company’s commitment to making a tangible difference. As Vaulterra continues to refine its operations, establish partnerships, and navigate the intricacies of the voluntary carbon market, the team hopes to redefine the landscape of climate solutions. By actively removing CO2, empowering farmers, and offering cross-industry solutions, Vaulterra sets a new standard for climate action and inspires others to join the movement.
Learn more about Vaulterra’s mission here.
Dani is an incoming freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying Journalism and RTVF at the The College of Letters and Sciences. Dani joined the team at The Garage to help facilitate the 2023 Jumpstart Pre-Accelerator summer program, working as a key pillar of the community to assist in daily operations and event execution, curate content for digital, print, and video publication, and strengthen community bonds.