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Oceans cover the vast majority of the Earth's surface — 71%, to be exact. And yet so much of what occurs on the water goes completely unobserved by humans.

But thanks to a $39 million fundraising round revealed on Monday by the ocean data start-up Sofar, a much clearer picture of the seas is on the horizon.

Deep Blue Something

With its new funding raised in a Series B with Union Square Ventures and the Foundry Group, Sofar is seeking to expand its data-collecting capacity across all four (OK, five) oceans. Specifically, the start-up will increase its armada of drifting "Spotter" buoys by a magnitude of thousands.

While not as advanced as the expensive buoys deployed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, each Spotter — which can cost as little as $5,000 a float — can provide real-time wind, wave, temperature, and ocean-current information.

So far for Sofar, there's been a steady tide of public and private sector customers hungry for its stats:

  • Data from Sofar's buoys improve weather forecasts, aid ship captains in charting routes around rough waters, and provide climate scientists with information on how the seas are shifting.
  • Among Sofar's customers are the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the World Meteorological Organization, shipping carriers such as Berge Bulk, foreign governments, and around 70 universities.

Marriage At Sea: Sofar didn't always make its buoys. In 2019, the company joined forces with start-ups OpenROV, which makes underwater drones, and Spoondrift, which manufactures the floating beacons. Together, the trio scored a $7 million Series A from Solar City co-founder (and Elon Musk's cousin) Peter Rive. A Musk interested in a vast, unexplored space? Go figure.