Defeating blue-green algae: Meet the advanced MegaShark

SUSTAINABILITY – RanMarine’s aqua drones help clean the water by combating plastics and (blue-green) algae, which plague Dutch waters every summer.

Nothing beats a dip in natural swimming water during a hot summer day, right? But every year, the same question arises again: Is the water safe for swimming, or will these awful blue-green algae prevent us from entering the water? With the WasteShark and MegaShark, RanMarine not only removes plastic waste and unwanted algae. “We are now working hard on developing an advanced MegaShark that can target the harmful and annoying blue-green algae as well,” says Richard Hardiman, CEO of the Rotterdam-based company.

In the ongoing battle against water pollution, RanMarine is making waves with its innovative water drone technology. The company is tackling the global issue of water pollution with the WasteShark and the Mega Shark: high-tech devices that glide through the water, collecting pollutants. “You can compare it to an autonomous vacuum cleaner, but instead of vacuuming your lounge, they vacuum the top thirty centimeters of waterways”, explains Hardiman. The drones are equipped with sensors and cameras and can navigate complex waterways.

The MegaShark
Natural waters face a big problem nowadays: algal blooms. The consequences of excessive algae range from unattractive appearance and unpleasant odors – bad for tourism and overall well-being – to severe disruptions in aquatic ecosystems by depleting oxygen levels and blocking sunlight, damaging plants, and harming the fish. “The blooms are fueled by excessive nutrient runoff of farmer lands and profit from climate change. As temperatures rise and the population grows, we must feed more people. That means more farming and more fertilizers. I foresee that algae will become a huge problem in the future”, Hardiman explains.

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RanMarine Technology shows first electric harvesting vessel to fight waterway pollution

Dutch scale-up RanMarine Technology says that debris intentionally or accidentally ends up in the world’s lakes, waterways, and other marine environments every day. There is no body of water that does not experience this problem, according to the company, with the unsightly debris being a threat to marine life, navigational safety, and human health. That’s why it developed products like the MegaShark, an electrically driven vessel shown at CES 2023 and designed to remove trash from waters and return it to shore before it can do damage.

Adding more detail to the growing problem, the company says that every year, 11 million metric tons of toxic plastic leak into oceans on top of the estimated 200 million metric tons that are already in the broader marine environments. The UN Environmental Program predicts that the former number will triple to about 35 million tons per year by 2040. With marine debris being one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways, according to the Marine Debris Program, new solutions are being sought globally to radically reduce the harmful effects of waste.

In response, RanMarine Technology created WasteShark, the world’s first commercially available marine drone that collects both waste and data from the world’s waterways. The brainchild of RanMarine founder and CEO Richard Hardiman, the WasteShark USV (unmanned surface vessel) has been designed to scoop harmful plastic waste from waterways, canals, rivers, and ports and return it to shore before it can do damage.

The company’s line of industrial remote controlled and autonomous “sharks” help government bodies and companies concerned with the economic, regulatory, and aesthetic impact of polluted water efficiently removes surface trash and biomass while preventing imbalances in their marine environments. Its multipurpose drones incorporating advanced AI are inspired by nature and restore waterways back to their natural state with zero emissions, limited noise, and a fraction of the investment compared to other methods.

“We have an epic battle on our hands,” said Hardiman, “Current technologies are simply not working, we need a modern approach to a modern problem, and for me, robots and autonomous drones were an easy and simple answer. Of course, it’s critical to create policies and strategies to stop plastic waste from entering our waterways as a primary strategy. Our WasteShark offers a pragmatic solution for cleaning up the existing mess that is perpetuated on a daily basis and effectively preventing waste from reaching the open ocean.”

The new and larger MegaShark highlighted at CES harvests waste from waterways using powerful suction jets to increase waste capture in difficult-to-reach chokeholds. An onboard trash compaction system makes it possible to collect larger amounts of waste per day. A MegaShark operator can manage the drone by standing or sitting on the vessel or operating it remotely. In addition to waste harvesting, the drone collects critical water quality data that can be immediately transmitted to a portal and available for reporting and analysis.

The drone has 8 h of electric running time thanks to advanced battery technology. A shallow draft gives the vessel less drag to improve efficiency and battery life.

Plans call for MegaShark to be part of a bigger RanMarine vehicle ecosystem.

The company will introduce the TenderShark, a versatile “mini” tender designed to carry light cargo loads efficiently and effectively from ship to shore, and vice-versa. It is engineered to transport loads in an environmental manner with an option to simultaneously collect floating waste, allowing all marine vessel operators to assist in cleanup.

Another “world first” from RanMarine is an autonomous floating docking station for waste-clearing drones. The SharkPod mothership can deploy, dock, and charge up to 5 WasteShark drones at any time. This latest tool in pollution-fighting technology can enable ports, harbors, and cities to operate a 24-h autonomous solution to remove floating water waste. It will be available for purchase in early 2023.

RanMarine’s customers are worldwide and made up of civic and commercial entities including the Port of Houston, Disney theme parks, Universal, and the United Nations.

The company is exhibiting at CES 2023 in Booth 55332.


This Aquatic Robot Is Making a Meal Out of Marine Waste

RanMarine has created the world’s first autonomous marine robot. Utilizing drone technology, it can collect up to 500 kg of plastic waste and destructive biomass each day, harmoniously clearing up and monitoring our waters.

As WH Auden once said, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” Vital to all life on earth, our biosphere and everything living upon it would perish without it.

Despite water’s importance and our dependence on it, our continued pollution of it is putting this crucial resource at risk — our oceans are plagued by plastic to the tune of approximately 5.2 trillion macro and micro pieces, killing 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals each year; toxic algal blooms are becoming more frequent and deadly, with 400 marine dead zones worldwide; and contaminated water is killing an estimated 1.2 million people each year.

In an attempt to address the severity of the situation, Dutch tech startup RanMarine is on a mission to restore the marine environment to its natural state by cleaning up our waters. It has developed the world’s first marine robot specifically designed to eat marine waste and collect data on our polluted waterways. Inspired by the way in which whale sharks suck in food and filter out water, the company’s WasteShark autonomous surface vessel (ASV) is “taking a bite out of water pollution.”

The zero-emission WasteSharks use drone technology to vacuum up plastic waste and biomass. Each one can collect up to 500 kg of waste per day, with a battery capacity of 8 hours on one charge. They’re designed to be efficient, unobtrusive and harmonious with the environment.

“We are particularly proud of the fact that zero carbon is emitted while using the WasteShark,” RanMarine founder and CEO Richard Hardiman told Sustainable Brands®. “With batteries that can be charged from the local grid or powered by solar storage systems, the WasteShark leaves no oil slicks, emits no toxic fumes and is unobtrusive on the water. These attributes ensure that it is the perfect solution for working in environments where wildlife is present — it allows you to safely collect harmful biomass and waste remotely from the shore or quayside.”

The WasteSharks’ operational routes are predetermined by the user. They carry out these routes via GPS navigation and can return home at the end of their ‘shift.’ The manual WasteSharks are essentially drones that travel through water, rather than air. They use the same technology and camera systems as a typical flying drone — including a hand-held controller. The automated drones, on the other hand, use ROS software to manage the complexity of being autonomous and having to “think for themselves” whilst deployed.

Although a mission plan is set out by the user on our web portal, RanMarineConnect, the Sharks have to be able to navigate and avoid obstacles that may not have been there at the time of planning; typically these include moving boats, moored vessels or unplanned obstacles,” Hardiman explains. “Here, we use our own internal software to navigate the drone safely to make sure the WasteShark can still do its job without endangering or colliding with other vessels.”

Data collected from the WasteSharks is geo-tagged and time-stamped, providing an accurate picture of the water quality health within an area. This representation helps verify compliance with pollution regulations, identifies potential contaminants early to minimize the impact on the environment and creates cleaner aquatic environments.

Written by Scarlett Buckley and published in Substainable Brands

“The aquatic drones can also be configured with different sensors to help monitor temperature; depth; dissolved oxygen; turbidity; blue-green algae; crude, refined oils and more. Any data collected is immediately available for reporting and analysis through the WasteShark Data Portal,” Hardiman says.

The RanMarineConnect portal allows clients to upload collected data for their own research and analysis. In the future, the RanMarine team is hoping to develop a data-sharing platform between users; but this is still at a conceptual stage.

More than 40 WasteSharks have been deployed across the globe — including in DenmarkSingapore, the UKUSAustralia and South Korea. Some of WasteShark’s clients include well-known theme parks in Orlando; the Port of Houston, Texas; and United Nations projects in Lebanon.

Hardiman says RanMarine will launch a larger WasteShark in the next six months that is capable of removing 1 ton of waste in a single load; he anticipates it being commercially available by the end of the year.

“We are also developing a docking station which houses up to 5 WasteSharks at a time, empties their baskets automatically and recharges them,” he added, “making it a total autonomous solution where humans are only required for oversight.”

Florida’s Red Tides Are Getting Worse

A task force appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for research and investment in mitigation. Environmentalists say the real fix is cracking down on polluters.

By Aman Azhar 
January 19, 2022

Thousands of dead fish float in the Boca Ciega Bay located near the mouth of Madeira Beach on July 21, 2021 in Madeira Beach, Florida. Credit: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

The blooms are caused by high concentrations of a plant-like microscopic organism known as Karenia brevis fed by nutrients in runoff from stormwater, agricultural lands and wastewater treatment plants. A key stimulant is phosphorus from fertilizer used on farms and ranches in the Kissimmee River Basin, which forms the headwaters of the Everglades and drains into Lake Okeechobee, which in turn reaches the coasts through rivers and man-made canals.

The algal blooms, which at one point in 2018 covered 90 percent of the lake’s surface, can have devastating impacts on ecological resources and communities, causing respiratory and eye irritation in humans and “widespread reports of fish, sea turtle, marine mammal, and other wildlife mortalities,” according to the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force.

Released on Jan. 10, the task force’s report recommends more research to determine the causes of red tides, more investment in mitigation technologies and continued work under the Clean Waterways Act of 2020.

What the task force described as a “prolonged 2017-2019 red tide event” began with an algal bloom on Lake Okeechobee and resulted in “estimated total losses of nearly $1 billion in revenue and an additional loss of $178 million in tax revenue in 23 Gulf coast counties.”

The impacts of climate change, which the task force said “may be impossible to change,” contribute to the algal blooms “through a complex variety of mechanisms including warmer water temperatures, changes in salinity, changes in rainfall patterns… changes in coastal upwelling, and sea level rise.”

Read full article by Inside Climate News

Meet WasteShark, the aquadrone taking a bite out of plastic waste

Meet WasteShark, the aquadrone taking a bite out of plastic waste
The WasteShark aquadrone

This article was adapted from the Climate Tech Weekly newsletter. Subscribe here.


Entrepreneur Richard Hardiman sketched the inspiration for his plastic-grabbing aquadrone, WasteShark, while sipping coffee outside near a South African waterway.

It was there he watched a boat crew cruise around the basin, scooping up empty water bottles and other debris with what amounted to a net you’d use to clean a swimming pool. “I kept wondering how I could do the job more efficiently. The idea wouldn’t go away for months,” he recalled in a conversation with me last week.

Roughly eight years later, after developing YouTube-inspired prototypes in his garage (yes, literally) using plumbing pipes and his phone as a remote control, the aquadrone that Hardiman describes as a “Roomba for water” is finding early customers both in European cities including Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and in U.S. cities such as Atlanta and Coral Gables, Florida.

Ultimately, robots play a part in going and getting the job done, as messy as it is, without complaining.

In its commercial form, WasteShark, sold by Hardiman’s startup RanMarine, is eating up plastics, biomass, algaes and other debris, such as coconuts. With the help of sensors and analytics software, its mission has also been expanded to applications such as water quality testing. About 70 percent of RanMarine’s business is with municipalities, but big companies — including Disney and Universal, which are using the technology in lakes at their resorts — are helping RanMarine explore more commercial applications. Its current revenue is about $1.18 million annually.

“We find most people who buy it are already into cleaning up and recycling,” Hardiman said. “They are already thinking in this frame and figuring out how to automate more of that work.”

How much can the WasteShark gobble up? Each unit has a swim time of about seven to eight hours, collecting about a half ton of garbage in a single shift before the aquadrone needs to be recharged. During that time, it can cover about 7.45 miles, or a couple of football fields in area, according to Hardiman. The price tag starts about $23,600.

Once a WasteShark’s appetite is sated, it can be returned to a docking station, a SharkPod, where the waste is unloaded. From there, it’s collected and processed as part of the company or city’s traditional waste management systems, Hardiman said.

The WasteShark in a waterway in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

The WasteShark in a waterway in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

RanMarine, based in Rotterdam, is planning a big U.S. push in 2022, with a big focus on Florida and Gulf states facing thorny clean-up challenges — a prototype for a larger “oilshark” that could potentially be used for spills and leaks is in progress. It could find a following in places such as Nigeria, given the nation’s history of spill associated with oil production, Hardiman said. Also in the works is a docking system that could make the units more fully autonomous — right now, they run via remote controls.

The money for all that research and development is coming from several backers. RanMarine’s initial funding came through an accelerator for the port of Rotterdam. It also is operating with a grant from the European Union and took an early-stage, bridge fund investment of about $590,000 from European venture capital firm Boundary Holdings.

Given that close to 8 million metric tons of waste are flowing into the ocean annually, Hardiman is under no illusion that one startup can alone solve the ocean plastic issue. “Before the trash gets into the ocean, we have a customer… If you start collecting trash in the ocean, no one lays claim,” he said.

And by addressing waste and debris in the waterways that dump into the open sea, RanMarine’s team hopes to take a bite out of the problem. “Ultimately, robots play a part in going and getting the job done, as messy as it is, without complaining,” he said. “Let humans get on with the job of making the planet better.”

Reducing Harmful Green-Algae Blooms Is Crucial to Protecting Aquatic Life

Algae blooms are essential in maintaining a healthy body of water and a great deal of attention has been brought to them in the past number of years. This is because of the harmful impact they can have on the environment, human health, aquatic life and animals. Not all algae blooms are harmful. It is crucial to know which ones are so we can create strategies to ensure our environment and all the beings living on it are protected. Keeping our waters clean is ever more important. We use water for everything from cooking to drinking to cleaning and much more.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae is a kind of bacteria known as cyanobacteria. It is naturally occurring and a component found in freshwater environments. It’s considered crucial for maintaining a healthy body of water because it produces oxygen. Not to mention, it’s also a source of nutrition for particular marine animals. Responding to certain conditions, Blue-green algae could undergo a population explosion known as blooms.

These conditions involve slow or still-flowing water, warm days with lots of sun and high amounts of nutrients, in particular phosphorus and nitrogen. These blooms occur under natural conditions. Blue-green algal blooms can have an appearance similar to that of spilled green paint or pea soup and are not always uniform. They can sometimes be small and cover less of a lake with visible algae present. Blue-green algal blooms are also not always dense and large. When the cells break down, they create a swamp-like odour.

What’s the problem with algae blooms?

Areas where aquatic creatures are unable to survive due to low oxygen levels are known as dead zones. Generally dead zones are caused by substantial nutrient pollution. Primarily, they are an issue for lakes, bays and coastal water because they are provided with additional nutrients from upstream sources.

The additional phosphorus and nitrogen results in overgrowth of algae and this occurs in just a short period of time (algae blooms). They block sunlight and consume oxygen from the underwater plants. Once the algae finally dies, the oxygen within the water is consumed. Since the oxygen is widely reduced, this makes it very challenging for aquatic creatures to live.

The biggest dead zone within the United States, for example, is the Gulf of Mexico. It is roughly 6,500 square miles and occurs each summer. This is as a direct result of the nutrient pollution that occurs in the Mississippi River Basin.

Some of these algae blooms are known as harmful algal blooms. These blooms are considerably large and produce toxins or chemicals. They typically occur in reservoirs, ponds, bays, rivers, coastal waters and lakes.

Beyond the threats to water quality and aquatic life, algae blooms also have implications for humans, other animals and the environment. When they occur, they interfere with other uses of the water. This can impact human health and has implications for the economy and the planet. They impact water quality by creating unpleasant odours and tastes in addition to scum and discolouration.

It can also be toxic. In other words, contact with large amounts of blue-green algae can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. In serious situations, they can damage the human nervous system and liver. Exposure to blue-green algae blooms has been linked to the death of livestock, pets and wildlife.

As the bloom becomes less intense, decaying and dead algae can lower oxygen levels within the water. This has a direct effect on aquatic animals, causing them to experience stress or could even result in fatalities. During times of drought, algae blooms can severely degrade aquatic ecosystems.

Not all algae blooms are deemed harmful. Some examples of harmful algal blooms that pose implications for aquatic ecosystems, human health and the economy include red tides, cyanobacteria and blue-green algae.

What actions can I take to prevent being harmed by algae blooms?

There are a number of actions you can take to protect yourself from the impacts of green-blue algae blooms. Firstly, if you come into contact with this kind of algae, you should wash your skin thoroughly afterwards. In addition, you should steer clear from using untreated river or lake water for cooking, drinking or brushing your teeth. Many treatment steps are required to remove algae toxins. Therefore, a simple treatment will not cut it. The water could be contaminated and cause irritation to the skin. Another way to prevent yourself from being harmed by algae blooms is to not eat fish from these algae-laden waters.

Is there a way to get rid of harmful algae blooms?

There is no way to fully remove blue-green algae from lakes. This is because while they are harmful, they are an essential component of the overall algal community. Rather than thinking about ways to remove them, we need to think about how to control the frequency and intensity of harmful algae blooms. Controlling the water temperature is out of our means. Therefore, the best action we can take is to lower the number of nutrients that enter these waters. Lowering the nitrogen and phosphorus levels within man-made sources is one of the best ways to accomplish this. This reduction will not occur overnight, but taking this approach is the best long-term solution to lowering the intensity of frequency of these blooms.

A solution does exist

Toxic algae blooms are a global issue and they are accelerating at a frightening rate in our rivers, lakes, reservoirs and oceans. The results of these blooms in our waters can be extreme. They are wiping out aquatic life, threatening human and animal health and our planet. Not to mention, they are impacting local communities and industries like tourism and fishing. While there is no way to entirely eradicate these blooms, we can work to control them. There are actions we can take as individuals to protect our own health. Not to mention, there are also ways we can reduce the intensity and frequency of these blooms by reducing the phosphorus and nitrogen levels in man-made sources.

RanMarine Technology created the world’s first autonomous data harvesting surface vessel to be deployed commercially, known as DataShark. Focussing on collecting and collating water quality health data from waterways in any environment the DataShark is capable of multiple sensor configurations, real-time data logging with GPS tagging.

DataShark can be configured with different sensors to help monitor temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, blue-green algae, crude, refined oils and more. Any data you collect is immediately available for reporting and analysis through the WasteShark Data Portal.

Whether you run a smart city, water district or an organization, the DataShark helps ensure that data collection is quick and accurate ensuring our waters are safe for everyone.