Co-authored by Rebecca Kaden
There are over 4,000 satellites in orbit around the Earth today. Enabled by advances in IoT and distributed sensing in the last few decades, these satellites help us do everything from GPS navigation to weather forecasting. In contrast, remarkably few strides have been made in ocean intelligence, though oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth. That’s where our latest investment, Sofar Ocean, comes in.
In keeping with our broader USV thesis on decentralization and network effects, Sofar is building the largest real-time ocean intelligence platform, powered by thousands of coastal and open ocean drifter buoys. These buoys – called Spotters – are solar powered, the size of a basketball, and can be deployed with no special equipment. Thousands of live Spotters currently in the ocean are collecting over 100,000 unique data points each day on waves, wind, temperature, and currents.
Sofar’s technology is already used by hundreds of climate and ocean scientists, more than a dozen global shipping carriers, and several international government agencies. The applications for Sofar’s platform are wide-ranging: climate research, weather models and forecasting, and ocean mobility.
The first commercial sector that Sofar is helping to decarbonize is global maritime shipping, which accounts for 3% of global GHG emissions. Increasing volatility from extreme weather and rising sea levels and storms means that accurate and real time ocean data has never been more valuable. Sofar’s software helps shipping companies optimize routes in real time and save on fuel and time, reducing emissions significantly in the process.
What’s even more exciting to us is the vision for Sofar’s future – an open platform for ocean intelligence with a “USB for the ocean” interconnect that allows third parties to add additional sensors and instrumentation. Over time, applications built on the Sofar network could include ocean carbon measurement and monitoring, which we believe is key to enabling an efficient market.
This vision has been present since the origin of the company – the name Sofar is a reference to the naturally occurring underwater sound channel that connects the world’s oceans and allows sound to travel unusually far distances without losing significant energy. This allows mammals to communicate over long distances and scientists to measure temperature variations and map seismic activity from hundreds of miles away. Like the SOFAR sound channel, Sofar aims to not only connect the world’s oceans but open up new ways of gathering insights.
We are excited to back Tim Jannsen and the rest of the Sofar Ocean team in their Series B fundraise alongside our friends at Foundry and True Ventures.