Written by Johanna Bernardi
Photo by Tim Austen
Brock Battochio understands that life is filled with stepping-stones, each one placing you on the right path. Battochio’s path has led him to the forefront of innovation in reversing climate change.
Battochio is a Carleton alumnus having once donned the Ravens crest on the ice. Now, Battochio and his business can be found on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Battochio’s tenure at Carleton began with a stroke of luck. He was born in Burlington, Ont. but grew up in Connecticut, USA. He always wanted to be a hockey player growing up with his goal to play university or college-level hockey.
Battochio had called about 70 coaches asking for a chance to be on their team. A chance to try out. He was never the best player on his teams, but he was a hard worker and could be a dark horse.
He had never imagined Ottawa to be where his university hockey career would take place. When scrolling through Carleton’s website he noticed his old babysitter from Burlington was the head scout for the Ravens. Could this be his chance?
“My journey to Carleton was an opportunity that was given to me,” said Battochio.
He called up that old babysitter with a “Hey, it’s Brock, the kid you used to babysit.” As Battochio describes it, it was “serendipitous.” The babysitter turned scout put Battochio in contact with Marty Johnston, the team’s head coach at the time.
“I’ll forever be grateful to Marty,” Battochio said. “He gave me that chance. He was the one person willing to give me a shot.”
Battochio put everything into his tryout as a walk-on. “I threw every chip I had down. I was all in,” said Battochio.
His work ethic came into good use. Before he knew it, Battochio was officially a Raven.
Walking into that dressing room and seeing his name bar above his stall is a moment Battochio will never forget. Even eight years later, Battochio’s eyes still light up and the smile is near impossible to wipe from his face while talking about it.
“I can still cry my eyes out,” added Battochio. “No one wanted to give me a shot and there I was, I finally made it.”
For the first time in his life, Battochio was very motivated in his academics. The library was his home away from home. He began his academic journey in the commerce program.
Not only was he thriving in the classroom, but Battochio was also playing the best hockey of his life. The team qualified for the U Sports National Championship in his first season.
As Battochio was sidelined by numerous concussions he had to shift his entire focus to school.
His luck began to run out as one concussion became two and two quickly became too many concussions. Coach Johnston began to express concern about the permanent impact these injuries could have on Battochio.
Faced with an uncertain future, Battochio hung up the skates once and for all and was forced to face who he was outside of sport. He had to reinvent himself.
“I always knew hockey was a means to an end I just didn’t know what that end was or when that end was going to come,” said Battochio.
Battochio had to ask himself the hard questions. What am I passionate about other than hockey? Who am I without skates and a helmet?
“I was deeply lost at that time,” added Battochio. “Hockey was all I did, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had to think about who I was and who I could be outside of sports.”
Climate change is a problem at the forefront of our society today. Numerous organizations and people are looking for an answer to this life-altering challenge. What Battochio discovered in this time of reinvention was he wanted to lead the search for climate solutions.
“I’ve always had this passion for climate change. It’s a global problem that I can dedicate myself to trying to solve,” said Battochio.
Battochio felt that those around him weren’t taking climate change seriously.
“How can you leave the future and the world for future generations up to hoping some person you don’t know will one day be the person to solve the problem,” added Battochio.
Battochio knew that in order to make a difference he needed to understand both how to build a business and how climate solutions work on a deep technical level.
He switched his major to Sustainable and Renewable Energy Engineering. The degree wasn’t easy, but Battochio was motivated.
He wanted to immediately make an impact after graduation. He needed to find the vehicle to help achieve that.
Battochio joined the Alumni Mentorship program. Knowing how important this would be for his career, he dedicated so much time and energy to filling out the application. His hard work paid off once again.
Battochio was paired with Mike Kelland, a serial entrepreneur. From the start, Battochio pushed Kelland to start a climate-focused business. The world needs innovative solutions and Battochio believed this partnership could do it.
“Starting and successfully building a business is somewhat of an art and he (Kelland) is a skilled artist,” said Battochio.
It wasn’t a hard sell, as Kelland shares a deep passion for the environment.
Once Battochio graduated the two started their journey to find what they referred to as a “Climate Unicorn” or a company with billion dollar potential that can make a massive impact on climate. Now they had to decide what area of climate change to tackle.
They started a group of like-minded people who were passionate about climate change called “Climate Beers.” They met on Fridays with a pint of beer and ideas on how to deal with climate change.
The duo spoke to many people, including physicists, scientists and engineers at NASA and the European Space Agency, as well as, clean tech innovators around the world, to find their area of focus.
Battochio came across a paper written by Dr. Greg Rau, a world renowned scientist and global carbon cycle expect, that became the inspiration behind their company.
The two connected with Dr. Rau in California in 2019 and discussed his research. Dr. Rau came on board with the project. One month later, Planetary Technologies was born. They would harness the mining industry and the ocean to fight climate change.
The goal of the company is to remove 1 billion metric tons of CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere by 2035. A huge but important goal. By 2050, it is estimated the world may require 10 billion tonnes of CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere annually in order to meet our climate goals.
Planetary has developed technology to enhance the ocean’s natural process of removing carbon from the air and safely storing it in seawater chemistry. The process includes safely purifying alkaline rocks leftover after mining and adding that alkalinity to the ocean. This rapidly enhances the ocean’s ability to draw out and permanently sequester carbon from the atmosphere. In laymen’s terms: they add an antacid to the ocean. This in turn helps to rebalance seawater chemistry, reversing ocean acidification caused by climate change restoring the marine ecosystem.
“By eliminating the acidity, you are restoring the marine ecosystem and harnessing the oceans natural ability to capture and store carbon dioxide from the air” Battochio says of the solution. “This process exists naturally over thousands of years but our manufactured system helps accelerate the process
The company is based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the team has direct access to the Atlantic Ocean and state-of-the-art research and development facilities at Dalhousie University. The oceans are the key to this solution as it is the Earth’s largest natural carbon sink, containing 88% of the carbon on our planet.
“Humanity needs to remove mountains of CO2 from the atmosphere. The challenge we face is monumental,” Battochio said. “Global scale problems require global scale solutions, and that’s what we have here at Planetary”
This past March the organization announced they had raised $8 million and are in the process of raising $65 million USD in a Series A funding round. This money will be used to build their demonstration facilities in Quebec and Nova Scotia, validate their process at scale, and support methodology development, research, and monitoring for their ocean-based carbon removal process.
In April 2022, Planetary was selected as a Milestone Award Winner in the XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition, funded by Elon Musk. Of the 15 Milestone Winners selected from 1,100 teams, Planetary is the only one with four key carbon transition solutions: carbon removal from the atmosphere, green hydrogen production, mine waste clean up, and ocean restoration. The $1 million prize was awarded by a panel of 70 expert judges internationally recognized across the fields of carbon removal, climate innovation, energy transition technology, and natural ecosystems.
Personally, Battochio has been named to the 2022 Forbes 30 Under 30 energy list. His hard work and dedication to reversing climate change are being recognized all over the world.
Battochio heard the news on a flight from Ottawa to Halifax when he saw a tweet congratulating him. The first people he called were his parents, of course.
“I was making a ruckus on the plane, but it was one of those moments that I did not care at all,” said Battochio with a huge smile across his face.
“It’s a wonderful achievement but even if I didn’t win it, I’d still be doing all of these same things Recognition like the XPRIZE, funding, and Forbes award is validation we have found a solution experts trust,” added Battochio.
To Battochio, this is not the finish line but a stepping-stone to greater things. The first step for Battochio was Carleton University.
“Carleton was the launching pad to where I am today and I’m so grateful for my time at the university.”