Peater Saves Nature’s Most Vital CO2 Capture Tool Before It’s Too Late

Peatlands are our most effective weapon against climate change. These areas are 20 times better than forests to capture CO2 per area – but when they are drained, the massive amounts of captured CO2 are released into our atmosphere. 

And even worse, drained peatlands are extremely prone to wildfires, which are devastating to the local communities close to the peatlands. Therefore, United Nations and several national authorities have started to monitor the wellbeing of peatlands across the globe – because keeping peatlands healthy is a fundamental investment to reach the Paris Climate Agreement. An agreement that pledges the vast country of India to reduce their emissions with 35% in 2030 compared to 2005. 

At Peater, we want to help countries fulfil that pledge by making autonomous, scalable and cheap monitoring of peatlands possible. 

The Peat-Problems Explained

Through the last several centuries, we have drained peatlands all over the world – either to exploit the area for agriculture or to use peat as fuel.  

Peat soil is special because of its dense compression of very old biomaterial. The high water content in the soil has effectively cancelled the decay of this biomaterial for centuries – a process that normally emits a lot of CO2. But when the peatland is drained the decay restarts, and all the CO2 captured in the biomaterial is released. This makes drained peatlands a ticking CO2-bomb! And it makes draining peatlands a terrible climate change contributor. 

On the contrary, if peatlands are left untouched in wet conditions, they serve to be the most effective, natural carbon storing tool. And further, because of their porous soil structure, healthy peatlands are a great counter to extreme weather, since they can absorb massive water masses and thus prevent flooding. 

Our Solution and Value Proposition

These peat-problems are all massive in complexity and scale. But in every regard we are better off, if we know more about the wellbeing of them. And this is exactly what we are set out to solve! 

At Peater, we develop an autonomous, self-sustaining IoT monitoring system specifically designed for peatlands. Our sensor network continuously monitors the health of peatlands on several attributes and transmits the data back to the farmer. Thus, the farmer can get a real-time insight of the wellbeing of their peatlands, and be notified when risk of wildfire or drought is detected. The sensor-networks are fully compliant with the Indonesian regulation on this matter and it allows national authorities to act faster in case of upcoming emergencies. 

And by complying with these laws, local farmers are saved both from regulatory headaches and also from doing time consuming, manual monitoring on a weekly basis. 

Our Proof-Of-Concept

Delivering a robust and precise monitoring system in a very price sensitive market comes with several technical challenges. Challenges, that we set out to solve with our Proof Of Concept (POC) devices. 

The two major challenges to conquer deals with 1) striking the right balance between price and sensor precision and 2) transmitting the data in a price optimal manner. 

We have tested multiple multiple different ultra-sonic and laser sensor types on their precision, power usage, ease of use and robustness in the last 3 months with the goal to find a single sensor to bet on. Specifically, the sensors were evaluated on precision in the 0.5m to 3 m range, as this is the range were we typically find the ground water in peatlands. Their power usages were also assessed to ensure that the solar powered battery can withstand our desired measurement frequency ranges for the given sensor. 

From these tests, we have found a single candidate, that meets our current requirements.

On the other hand, data transmission is a concern with way more nuance, since it deals both with hardware and how we encode and send the data. 

The hardware options are heavily dependent on the specific location of the device: peatlands relatively close to urban areas will benefit from connecting to the cheap LTE network whereas remote areas should support the more expensive satellite transmission – in fact, the satellite transmission modem increases the bill of materials with 3x. 

As a promising middle ground, we have also developed support for LoRaWAN technology – an innovative, low energy, long range transmission technology. LoRaWAN allows the sensors to communicate on their own local network over several kilometers in an energy efficient manner. Thus we can deploy an entire fleet of sensors spanning multiple square kilometers and have all of them transmit data cheaply to a single device equipped with the more expensive satellite modem. 

But sending data with LTE or LoRaWAN can also quickly become an expensive activity – both in terms of energy usage and price of bandwidth. To solve this problem, our proof of concept is programmed with our custom single-bit precise data encoding and transmission algorithm. This minimises the amount of wasted encoding space and allows the customer to vary the frequency with which the measurements should be made and transmitted. Hence the farmer can measure more often when it matters and have the transmitted to him faster

The devices even support remote software updates, allowing us to continuously tweak and calibrate our algorithms.

To test our POC and shorten the feedback loop significantly, we have teamed up with the owners of Lille Vildmose, the largest peatland in Denmark. Here, we have deployed our latest version of the sensor in a pilot project, and agreed to replace 25 or their current sensors, if they are satisfied with our pilot project after 6 months. The focus of this pilot project is to stress test the physical sensor, which shows promising results as of today. 

Furthermore, we are about to put the last finishing touches on another Danish pilot-project. Here, we are about to team up with the Danish municipality of Lyngby-Taarbæk, with the aim to test our communication system. Several of our latest communication network nodes will be deployed with the goal to test our network at a larger scale. This allows us to tweak our network significantly faster, so that it achieves the required standard for it to operate at international scales.

These two test projects will provide us with critical feedback on our POC – but it also shows promising indications of our product on the Danish water monitoring market – a 150M DKK market primarily consisting of Danish municipalities, large water infrastructure suppliers and Danish fish farms. A market, that may turn out to be the perfect stepping stone for us, as it would provide us with vital cash flow. A cashflow, from which we can grow to the proper size to grab into the large Indian water-monitoring market.

Our Progress and Roadmap

Since joining Next Generation Water Action, we have made great progress. 

We have developed a working POC that is successfully deployed in the largest Danish peatland, Lille Vildmose – a partnership that is on the trajectory to end in a ~250K DKK deal for a large fleet of sensors. And meanwhile, we’re laying the initial touches on the contract for a test project with Lyngby Taarbæk municipality. 

Moving forward, several members of the team will continue the work on our startup. In the long term, we will continue the iteration of our product in collaboration with Danish partners before turning towards India. Here, we will focus on the northern parts of India, where the majority of their peatlands are located. 

And to accelerate this exciting journey further, we’re currently competing in Venture Cup, the largest university start up competition in Denmark. And besides this, we’re in the process of getting approved to become a part of ‘Danish Tech Challenge’, one of the greatest start up incubators in Denmark, located at Danish Technical University. 

Help Us Help Peatlands

Being a part of Next Generation Water Action has allowed us to mover faster than ever before. The initiative has provided us with highly skilled expertise in Denmark and India, that has strengthened our case and offering a tonne.

But we’ve got a long and tough road ahead of us to help the world save our vital peatlands. And for a goal that ambitious, we need a world-class team around us! A team consisting of talented engineers and sales people with deep domain expertise within the water sectors of the world. People, that we hope to meet and convince to join our mission at the IWA World Water congress in 2022. Yes, we’ve got our eyes pointed at the “Most Promising Idea” competition, whose price would boost our outreach and possibility to build the best team significantly! Help us help peatlands.