The Faces of RanMarine

“This could be done better” is a phrase we’ve heard many times before and one that certainly applies to environmental issues. It’s this very thought that led to the birth of RanMarine Technology.

Richard Hardiman is a South African entrepreneur who considers himself an accidental environmentalist. He feels that NGOs and governmental organisations will not solely solve the climate crisis but that businesses seeking profit will help significantly by creating products and services that are crucial for protecting the environment.

His initial idea was not actually motivated by trying to solve environmental issues. He was enjoying a cup of coffee one sunny day at a waterfront coffee shop in Cape Town, South Africa when he saw people in boats using small swimming pool nets to retrieve bits of plastic from the ocean. The scene both annoyed and fascinated him as it was obviously a futile attempt. By the time he finished his coffee, he realised that innovation was to be the only solution for removing plastic from the ocean, and he left the restaurant with excitement as the wheels began turning in his head.

That was in 2015 and in 2016 Richard founded RanMarine Technology in the Netherlands. He identified a major problem – so much waste entering our waterways and polluting our waters – and created an innovative product that tackled this issue head-on. He built the aqua drone prototype in his garage by glueing PVC pipes together, all the while doing plenty of research to help him perfect his design. He even learned how to code on his smartphone and eventually, he launched the drone into a swimming pool and began manoeuvring it around. It did exactly what he hoped it would.

After he developed his product, he was met with the usual challenge of finding investors, typically faced by most startups. While the product was good and received excellent feedback, he still needed to work on his pitching skills. It wasn’t until he gained the attention of an accelerator program in Rotterdam that his startup really began taking off. RanMarine made it into the top 20 finalists of the accelerator program, much to Richard’s elation. Elation quickly turned to panic when Richard realised he’d have to come up with the money to get to The Netherlands.

But Lady Luck was shining down upon Richard. He found a local South African investor who took a risk on the project and lent him the funds to go to the finals. The response to the WasteShark at the finals was overwhelmingly positive, and it was given a place on the accelerator program, much to Richard’s relief. As a result, he went to Rotterdam for three months, where RanMarine Technology became a pilot project with the Port of Rotterdam, the world’s largest port.

Richard and his team at RanMarine underwent numerous hurdles when starting up the company, but now, six years later, their WasteShark is a feature of many harbours and ports around the world.

The company has grown significantly and now employs a team of 15 people. They also have accumulated several awards and accolades throughout their journey as a company. Some of these were provided by 3G Awards, EIT Digital, the European Commission Seal of Excellence, and more. The RanMarine team is incredibly passionate about using robotics to tackle climate-related issues

Here are what some of the team members have had to say about working at RanMarine Technology:

“I love working for RanMarine because it’s a young company doing innovative things. Doing good for our planet in one way or another has always been something close to my heart. I also really like being at the forefront of new developments by helping to chart the course of development for the robotics side of the system.” – Peter Geurts, Robotics Engineer/ Head of Robotics

“I think it’s rare nowadays that people get to work in a place that they both enjoy and can contribute to a cause that is important to them, and I’m grateful to be doing just that. The most exciting aspect at RanMarine is having breakthrough moments! It’s an incredible feeling when there’s a difficult problem, and we combine the knowledge and hard work of the whole team to solve the issue.” – Tessa Despinic, Design Engineer.

“For me, it was an absolute no-brainer to work with a company like RanMarine that is progressive and forward-thinking with a non-negotiable mission in making sure our oceans are safe and free of plastic for generations to come. In a nutshell, we all have to strive to be ambassadors for change for the sake of our oceans and natural waterways across the globe.” – Eugene van Eck, Business Development Manager.

“I’m 60% water myself, so I’m very much obliged to agree with a company that wants to keep the world’s water supply clean. Wouldn’t you? Being able to work with some of the brightest people in this space, on a true goal, while contributing my own small piece to this very complicated pie has been the most exciting aspect of working at RanMarine.” – Remco Eijsackers, Software Engineer / Product Owner.

“If you work for a company that encourages employees to share their ideas and that supports innovation, you can create a collaborative environment and improve your skills. This is exactly what RanMarine does” – Muhammad Bilal, Software Engineer.

The story of how Richard Hardiman started RanMarine is incredibly inspirational, teaching us that anything is possible with a clear vision, tenacity, and hard work. The company has experienced incredible growth, going from 1 to 16 team members in just six years. They have also received many awards and accolades and have been featured in the media and on the TedX program. RanMarine has also fostered a great working environment for their team members where the team enjoy their work but also face challenges that allow them to expand and experience substantial growth.

Governments, political leaders, and businesses could undoubtedly take a leaf out of Richard’s book. We need to act against plastic pollution before it is too late and robotics and technology give us the speed needed to do that. Innovative technology is what will help us to not only fight climate change but reverse its damage.