Interview by Up!Rotterdam / Rotterdam Innovation City

The mission of RanMarine is to develop advanced technology specifically designed for cleaning up pollution, organic waste, and debris in waterways. Additionally, water quality is monitored, allowing proactive measures to be taken to improve water quality.

Founder Richard Hardiman: “The idea for RanMarine arose in 2016 when I saw a few guys pulling plastic out of the water with a fishing net in a harbor in South Africa. I thought: this can surely be made easier. I literally sketched the idea for what is now the WasteShark on a napkin.”

By removing plastic from the water in time while it’s still floating, we try to reduce the risk of it breaking down into microplastics” Richard Hardiman, RanMarine

Since 2020, Richard and his family have moved to Rotterdam. “I tried to start my company in South Africa, but there are many more challenges there than in The Netherlands. I had done business in Rotterdam before, so I knew the city. When I read about a startup program I could participate in, I didn’t hesitate to sign up and travel to Rotterdam. The Netherlands has a very large volume of water, so I immediately thought: this is the place to bring my idea to life. Moreover, Rotterdam, with all its maritime expertise, is the ideal hotspot for my company.”

RanMarine has developed several autonomous surface vessels, commonly known as water drones. Operating on technology similar to that of robot vacuum cleaners, these aquatic drones come in various sizes and are tailored to different environments. Compact versions are suitable for rivers and canals, even between moored boats, while larger models are designed for ports and lakes. The flagship product is the WasteShark, a catamaran-style vessel that can operate both remotely or autonomously and is equipped with a waste collection bin between the floats.

Richard: “Actually, there should be a WasteShark everywhere because it’s often only purchased when waste is visible on the water. It’s better to anticipate, because if you remove waste and plastics in time, you do so before it breaks down into microplastics.”

Richard has big plans for the future. “I also see a collaboration with Hebo. Together, we are working on the development of an emission-free vessel for rapid response in removing small oil spills from waterways. Every day, I am feeling happy with my work. It’s a great feeling to be involved in something good. I see that reflected in my colleagues too. For example, Robotic Engineers can work anywhere, but they also choose to work for an organization like RanMarine that makes the world a better place.”

“Without Rotterdam, I would never have achieved what I have now. There is so much talent here. It’s truly a city of action! As a good Rotterdam saying goes: Actions speak louder than words. The TU Delft is nearby, while the port with all its knowledge is within easy reach. UpRotterdam has been immensely helpful in the process. With their network, they directed me to the right people and organizations. Sometimes I talk to friends in South Africa about my experiences starting my business, and they don’t believe me when I say that I received needed supported during the process. As a Dutch person, you might not fully realize how well things are organized here. 

To all new entrepreneurs, I would say: don’t be afraid to fail. There are plenty of opportunities in the Netherlands. Just take the risk, there is always a safety net here.”

Richard Hardiman is one of the Rotterdam Icons. Curious about the other Icons? Click here to meet them!
Original story here