Richard Hardiman, who calls himself an “accidental environmentalist,” believes that it won’t be governmental and non-governmental organizations alone that will improve the environment; rather, businesses seeking profits will produce the innovations necessary to protect the planet.
Richard Hardiman is an entrepreneur at heart. Hardiman, a South African, founded RanMarine Technology, a drone technology company based in the Netherlands. The company specializes in remote-controlled and autonomous drones called WasteSharks that swim through water, extracting unwanted material and gathering data about their respective marine environments.
Hardiman believes that the solution to environmental issues such as waste in international waters is not to stop or restrict economic activity—to do so is to restrict innovation, which is our best weapon against the problems we face today. RanMarine’s drones are designed to catch our waste before tide, wind, and currents carry it out to the open ocean.
Modeled on Earth’s biggest fish, the whale shark, Hardiman’s drones are efficient, long-lived, non-threatening, and unobtrusive. RanMarine’s WasteSharks eat plastics and other litter, detect chemicals in the water, and extract alien and pest vegetation. Agile, both human-operated and autonomous, and with zero greenhouse emissions, RanMarine's drones act as an intelligent tool to cleaning the waters not just around the harbors but beyond. Apart from picking up trash, they collect valuable data “on water depth, chemical composition, and salinity—that's very exciting from a technological point of view. We can really investigate the quality of our water,” Hardiman explains.
Currently there are 10 WasteSharks being tested around the world in India, the Netherlands, the U.S., and Cape Town. "Because the WasteShark was born in Africa, I am very aware of not wanting to take away anyone's job. Actually, the ports we work in are not comfortable with autonomous vessels, as these are heavily congested areas,” Hardiman states. Each WasteShark provides employment, as it requires a remote-control operator. Hardiman elaborates, "We've specifically invested in intuitive design for the controls so that anyone without technological experience can operate it. The WasteShark is a drone, but it's designed for humans."
In his role as CEO of RanMarine, Hardiman spends time not only on the strategy of the business but also on the educational side; Hardiman has attended numerous innovation and environmental conferences in Europe, the U.S., and South Korea, talking specifically about innovation and the creation of strong businesses based on environmental solutions and commercial viability. With an eye on the future, Hardiman talks passionately to future business leaders and disruptors about the need for new ideas and innovations around environmental solutions that bring about a positive impact as well as proper commercial revenue in order to sustain growth and innovations into the future.