"Do you remember our childhood winters? We couldn't open the door because the house was buried in snow. It's not like that anymore," such nostalgic phrases we hear not only from our parents and grandmothers nowadays. Over the past 10-20 years, we ourselves have noticed that snow has become almost a miracle in January. Moreover, going outside in the middle of the day in summer feels like "stepping barefoot into a hot frying pan".
The melting of glaciers and mountain snow caps, fires, hurricanes and floods worldwide hint to humanity that the climate crisis is our new reality. One of its roots is the constantly growing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which trap the sun's heat and prevent the planet from cooling, causing climate extremes.
If greenhouse gases are causing climate change, can't they simply be removed from the atmosphere and safely stored or utilized somewhere? At first glance, a simple idea has resulted in a range of highly complex technological solutions designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reuse it.
This set of technologies is usually known by the acronym CCS — Carbon Capture and Storage. This mainly refers to giant plants that are supposed to extract CO2 from the emissions of thermal power plants, cement plants, or other industrial giants. In the last 10-15 years, we have also seen the rapid development of CO2 capture technologies, known as Direct Air Capture (DAC)
Ukrainian company Carbominer, founded by father and daughter Nick and Victoria Oseyko, has started with small DAC units that solve a different problem — yield in greenhouses. 
How did Nick and Victoria Oseyko start their startup? How did they get their first investment? Why do farmers buy CO2 for their greenhouses? Read on in this story.

The story of Carbominer is a part of the series "The Cream of the Crop of Ukrainian Cleantech". It features 10 cleantech champions who received Climate Innovation Vouchers at a critical stage of their development. Climate Innovation Vouchers is one of the largest grant programs in Ukraine for innovators in green and climate-friendly technologies. It was initiated by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and funded by the European Union. Greencubator implements the program in Ukraine.

Money in the air

That day, Nick Oseyko still recalls it with a smile. It was pretty hot for him and his daughter Victoria in the usually cold and gloomy autumn of Amsterdam in November 2019. After several months of intense preparation, they were about to take the stage and present their young but already ambitious innovation at ClimateLaunchpad, the world's largest green business idea competition. 
In this life before last, when even the coronavirus pandemic hadn't been announced yet, dozens of startups from all over the world gathered in the capital of the Netherlands. That year, more than 2,600 innovators from 53 countries had applied for the competition. Only 150 of them reached the semifinals. Even fewer found themselves on the same stage with Nick Oseyko, the founder of Carbominer.
"Let me start with one unexpected fact," — Nick told the audience a little nervously, — "Today we are in Amsterdam, the capital of the country known for its tulips. And maybe not all of you know that the Netherlands is the world's largest exporter of flowers and the second-largest exporter of tomatoes. Every second tomato eaten in Germany was grown here. What do flowers and tomatoes have in common? They are grown in greenhouses. And recently, local farmers have been facing a CO2 shortage. And this is exactly the problem that Carbominer has a solution for."
(Nick Oseyko presented Carbominer at the ClimateLaunchpad competition in Amsterdam)
Nick's idea was complex and simple at the same time. Farmers need to supply CO2 to the greenhouse to get higher yields. They have been doing this for a long time by buying compressed carbon dioxide in cylinders. However, in 2019, this market was hit by a supply crisis, which resulted in many greenhouse growers losing a share of their crops and, consequently, their income. 
Carbominer offered an unusual model for the market. The same CO2 is in the air. So why don't we remove it from the atmosphere next to the greenhouse and bring it inside? This would require a particular machine, which the Carbominer team has developed. 
"Thanks to our technology, farmers can get concentrated CO2 using climate-friendly technology," the founder of Carbominer resumed. 
Once Nick Oseyko finished his first-ever pitch on the international stage, the audience gave him a round of applause. The following day, the jury chose them as one of the competition's winners. 
"The pitch at the Climate Launchpad in Amsterdam was a huge success," says Nick's daughter Victoria, recalling the first international recognition, "Just imagine! Back then, we had only a small machine on our desk in Kyiv, and here we were selected as one of the top 16 startups worldwide! Of course, before that, we had been practising a lot with Roman Zinchenko, the co-founder of Greencubator, to make the presentation as good as possible and convey our idea. And it worked." 
(Nick and Victoria Oseyko - founders of Carbominer)

Climate change witnesses

Nick Oseyko's idea to create CO2 capture technologies goes back to his student years. In the 1990s, he studied engineering at Kyiv Polytechnic University. However, the collapse of the Soviet economy changed his plans, as it became almost impossible for a young engineer to get a well-paid job in his specialization. So Nick went to work in programming, finance, and business, and only 30 years later, together with his daughter Victoria, he got the chance to use his skills as an engineer on his project.
According to Nick, in the years of his birth, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Ukrainian capital did not exceed 350 ppm (parts per million). However, researchers have recorded 420 ppm across the globe today, and this growth is dramatic.
"The higher the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, the more thermal radiation from the sun is retained, making the planet heat up more. The climate is changing, and we are seeing abnormal floods, hurricanes, and snowfall," — explains Nick Oseyko.
The idea to create a unit that would take CO2 directly from the air was implemented in Carbominer. Oseyko founded the project in early 2019 without investment or a large team, armed only with an idea and knowledge.
"We put our idea in a very basic presentation. It contained a lot of text and graphics, so it was still difficult to understand," — recalls Viktoria. — "At the same time, Nick was conducting experiments with our first hired employee to create the prototype of our unit. That's how we brought the idea to life in a physical machine and ensured our technology worked."
Working on the prototype, Nick Oseyko already knew that this technology would not only help mitigate climate change. This is an excellent business because captured CO2 is an actual product that can be used and sold in many areas of the economy. After a certain period of research into the optimal usage of its technology, the company decided to focus on cooperating with greenhouse farmers.
(Visualisation of the Carbominer technology) 

First international recognition

The young company's introduction to the Ukrainian NGO Greencubator was a turning point. Carbominer's business model was drawn practically on napkins at the table of the Kyiv restaurant Urban Space 500, above which the Greencubator office was located at the time.
Since 2009, the Greencubator team has started raising awareness about green energy and climate-friendly technologies in Ukraine, even when it was far from the mainstream. Over the 15 years of its work, Greencubator has grown an entire ecosystem of green startups. At the organization's events, innovators often found a new vision of their idea, support for business development, valuable networking, and grant funding.
Greencubator is a Ukrainian partner of several large-scale international projects in the green technology sector, one of which is ClimateLaunchpad.
Carbominer, which met Greencubator as a very young project, became one of the flagships of the Ukrainian cleantech sector.
"We invited Carbominer to Climate Launchpad with their climate innovation idea for the agricultural business," — says Roman Zinchenko, co-founder of Greencubator. — "The technology they proposed is CCS — Carbon Capture and Storage. They passed the boot camp very well, won the national stage of the competition in Ukraine, and then were among the best at the global final in Amsterdam."
(Carbominer won the national stage of ClimateLaunchpad in 2019) 
The Climate Launchpad victory gave Carbominer access to the EIT Climate-KIC, one of the leading accelerators for climate innovators from the European Institute for Technology and Innovation, and brought the company valuable contacts.  
"What can participation in the competition for climate ideas change? We found our first investor thanks to our participation in the ClimateLaucnhpad and the support of Greencubator," — says Nick Oseyko.

Climate Innovation Vouchers grant

Earning the first international recognition and first investment for a young company is like getting wings. Now it's time to unfold them, leave the nest, and take flight. 
So, the Carbominer team started hiring specialists to expand their production department and worked on developing a direct air capture machine. This allowed them to create an MVP version of the machine 1.5 years after the project started and get to pilot testing in the greenhouse farms.
In 2021, the company sought partners to enter the European market. Carbominer chose regions with a developed greenhouse industry, such as Spain, the Netherlands, and Turkey, as its priority destinations. However, the team had to patent its development to take further steps.
"Patenting is extremely important for hardware startups. Investors want to ensure that the innovation is not only created but also protected in all key markets," — explains Nick Oseyko.
To protect its intellectual property and improve its development, the Carbominer team applied for the Climate Innovation Vouchers grant program. This project was initiated by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and funded by the European Union. In Ukraine, Greencubator implemented the program.
(Nick Oseyko at the Climate Innovation Vouchers award ceremony)
Thanks to a grant from Climate Innovation Vouchers, the company patented its development in Ukraine, applied for a U.S. patent, and developed a mobile application.
"Through the mobile app, we help monitor the climate conditions in greenhouses. This allows farmers to control such indicators as CO2 levels, humidity, and temperature in greenhouses, which helps them to increase yields," — the founders explain.

Progress despite the war

The war in Ukraine has forced the Carbominer team to revise their ambitious development plans. Victoria and Nick Oseyko, along with the rest of the team, were working on the project in Kyiv when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. 
In the first days of full-scale war, the company had to halt all work and prioritise the safety of its employees, sending them to safer regions of the country and abroad. Nick and his family even spent some time in the occupied territory near Kyiv, from where they were fortunately able to leave. 
Once the situation stabilized after the Ukrainian army de-occupied the Kyiv region, Carbominer returned to work step by step. However, for safety reasons, the company decided to operate between two countries Ukraine and Poland. 
In 2022-2023, Carbominer conducted two pilot tests of its advanced prototype 1-ton DAC (Direct Air Capture) machine. 
"We conducted two successful pilot tests to verify our technology,"  explains Viktoria. "The first one was in the winter from December 2022 to January 2023 in Ukraine. The second pilot took place in August 2023 in Austria. We took the machine out of Ukraine and went through all the difficulties of customs clearance and transportation. However, everything went well: our partners saw the unit with their own eyes and made sure that it worked." 
In early 2024, Carbominer received a €1.5 million grant from the EIC Accelerator Fund and the opportunity to raise up to €7.5 million in equity in the next stages of the project. 
Investments and grants are also a challenge for Carbominer's further development. Now the team has to optimize the energy consumption of the unit and increase its capacity from 1-2 tons to 50, and then up to 250. 
"We will have two types of unit. The 50-ton machine will be designed for small and medium-sized farms. And we will have a 250-ton machine designed for large industrial customers. 
(CO2 capture unit from Carbominer)
"Unfortunately, the problem of global warming is too big for one company to solve," says Victoria.
Nevertheless, each of these innovations is a step forward. And in the case of Carbominer, it also helps turn CO2 into delicious and ecologically grown tomatoes on your table.


«The Cream of the Crop of Ukrainian Cleantech» is a series of stories about 10 Ukrainian companies that received the Climate Innovation Vouchers grant at a key stage of their development. They've risen to prominence in Ukraine's cleantech sector in a short span. Climate Innovation Vouchers is one of the largest grant programs in Ukraine for innovators in green and climate-friendly technologies. It was initiated by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and funded by the European Union. NGO Greencubator implements the program in Ukraine.