A few years ago, Sidhant Gupta, an ocean lover, and Utkarsh Goel, a techie, visited Bali, Indonesia, as part of their course at the University of Hong Kong. Miffed by the growing the ocean plastic pollution in the archipelago, a top contributor to global plastic pollution, the duo decided to leverage their technical expertise to tackle it.
Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year, of which about 14 million tons end up in the ocean every year. Plastic makes up 80 per cent of all marine debris. While many solutions are available to address this problem, they are grossly inadequate.
“Existing solutions are slow, with some communities still using paddle boats and diesel-powered boats for fishing trash. We realised technologies like Artificial Intelligence could address this problem effectively.”
This led the duo to start Clearbot in 2019.
Clearbot is a remotely operated vehicle designed to perform various tasks in the marine sector, including data collection, site monitoring, marine pollution cleaning, and goods delivery. Powered by an electric motor, it can complete these tasks without human intervention.
An autonomous platform, Clearbot maps and cleans the ocean using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) powered by artificial intelligence (AI). The AI system allows operators to tackle multiple tasks remotely.
The beauty of Clearbot lies in its simplicity, as it can be easily deployed in any water body without complex installation requirements. This makes the technology accessible to governments as well as individuals, he says.
“Instead of hiring ten people to handle different things, you hire one to handle multiple Clearbots for different uses. The Clearbots also give you valuable data within minutes — locations visited, trash collected, and other custom information that matters to you,” explains Founder Gupta.
Gupta, a serial entrepreneur, aims to develop the world’s first autonomous marine platform to map and clean the oceans and preserve marine life. In the past, he built businesses backed by Alibaba and Razer.
Goel, CTO, has an extensive background in AI, Computer Vision and Deep Learning, executed projects on university campuses, and built open-source tools for the data science and machine learning community.
Clearbots, a winner of several awards, including the JUMPSTARTER 2022 Global Pitch Competition, has operations in India and Hong Kong and is looking to expand to other Asian countries, such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore, soon.
In India, the startup is piloting its services for the “Clean the Ganga” project. “We are partnering with the government to provide an AI-based solution for cleaning trash, collecting hyacinths, performing surveillance, and even moving goods shortly,” Gupta adds.
There is growing awareness about the dangers of climate change and the need to protect the oceans. This has laid the foundation for adopting advanced technological solutions for combating these issues. “We believe that Clearbot can play a crucial role in solving these problems, especially in areas where conventional methods are impractical because of cost, human resources or lack of infrastructure,” he says.
In addition to helping prevent marine pollution, Clearbots also help reduce carbon emissions by eliminating the need for manual labour or fuel to power boats and AUVs. The product is entirely electrical, reducing the carbon footprint considerably compared to boats powered by fossil fuels.
The prices of Clearbot vary depending on the location, existing infrastructure within the region, the project’s scope, and the deployment duration.
“Since we provide a custom solution to our clients based on their specific requirements, we offer free consultations to understand their needs and provide a detailed proposal. Once a project has been sanctioned, we offer a detailed breakdown of the costs, including the hardware and for hosting the platform on our cloud servers, which are charged monthly.”
As of now, the startup serves different clients from various industries, including property management companies, government departments, and brands with sustainability goals. For these clients, it performs multiple services, including pollution recovery (i.e. collecting marine trash, oil, and hyacinths), surveillance and inspection and goods delivery.
Among its clients are the Drainage Services Department in Hong Kong, the Highways Department in Hong Kong, Sino, Kingspan, and Modern Terminals.
Last month, Clearbot closed an undisclosed seed funding round with Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and Gobi Ventures, with participation from Earth Venture Capital, Asia Sustainability Angels, and CarbonX Capital.
In his view, scaling up operations is Clearbot’s top priority and the most significant challenge. “We need to grow our team so that we can be more efficient in our operations and keep up with the demand that we see internationally. To do this, we recently raised funding, which will help scale up our business further with more time and resources to create an easily deployable and sustainable platform for solving the most pressing issues facing our oceans today.”