5 Min reading
Coral Vita, a company that grows corals to restore recently dying reefs raised US $ 2 million in a funding round to modernize both coral restoration techniques and the economy around them.
Co-founded by friends Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern, Bahamas-based Coral Vita recently raised US $ 2 million in a start-up round to present a global model for its coral reef restoration program. The round table was led by the environment-focused Builders Collective, Apollo Projects’ Max Altman and baseball’s Max and Erica Scherzer, who also participated in the round.
During the pre-seed cycle, investors such as the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, Tom Chi, Adam Draper, Yale University and Sven and Kristin Lindblad offered their support.
In addition to being the basis of some of the most diverse natural ecosystems in the world, coral reefs help protect coasts from damaging extreme wave actions as good as provide habitat and shelter for marine life.
We decided that rather than just rebuilding our pilot farm to this pilot level, we would just take a step forward in our journey. We truly believe this is an opportunity to jumpstart a restaurant economy.
Sam Teicher, Co-founder and Chief Reef Officer
According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), coral reefs generate around US $ 30 billion annually through fishing, tourism and coastal protection. In addition, they are responsible for creating 15% of the GDP of more than two dozen countries, thus ensuring food security for millions of people living in tropical coastal areas, protecting coasts from storm surges and erosion and wave energy reduction up to 97%.
Coral Vita focuses on restoring coral reefs, which involves move from ocean farms to land based facilities which allow improved yield and higher survival rate through advanced techniques that help accelerate the growth of corals.
One of these techniques includes coral microfragmentation, which is developed by the restoration community where the corals are broken into small pieces so that they can grow about 50 times faster and by having this process on land, the community can have greater control over the characteristics of the coral.
When you think about the scale of the problem – half of the world’s reefs are dead and 90% of the other half are expected to die within the next 30 years – you can’t just rely on underwater facilities.
Sam Teicher, co-founder and Chief Reef Officer
In an interview with TechCrunch, Sam Teicher, co-founder of Coral Vita and Chief Reef Officer, said the startup is committed to pursuing restoration on a larger scale. “We decided that rather than just rebuilding our pilot farm to this pilot level, we would just take a step forward in our journey. We really believe this is an opportunity to launch a restaurant economy. “
At Coral Vita Farms, reef restoration looks like a underwater garden near the shore, with floating ropes and structures on which coral fragments grow which are harvested from time to time and then transported to areas in need of young and healthy corals.
Explaining why Coral Vita’s technology is so timely, Teicher spoke of the vast devastation that has taken place on the world’s coasts. “When you think about the magnitude of the problem, half of the world’s reefs are dead and 90% of the other half are expected to die within the next 30 years – relying solely on underwater facilities is not possible.
Currently, the main source of income for the project is limited to government money rather than private funds. Coral Vita aims to change that by diversify and increase supply and income, with funds directed to affected communities.
Teicher explained how the restoration model has onshore tanks with pumped clean sea water and the ability, among other things, to control conditions. “So if you think about what it’s going to be off the coast of Grand Bahama in 40-50 years, we can basically simulate that to harden the corals under those conditions. Initially, an ocean nursery is a lot cheaper, but when you start to think about the need to grow millions or billions of corals around the world, land-based facilities start to look a lot more realistic. The cost also decreases with the scale – ocean nurseries cost around US $ 30-40 per coral; wWe can reduce it to $ 10 while we get up to a hundred or a thousand tanks. “
When the lockdowns were imposed, Coral Vita expanded its “Adopt A Coral” campaign to expand support for local operations.
“We’re trying to transform the space away from grants and aid – we sell to customers who depend on reef ecosystems. If you are a hotel that relies on scuba diving or snorkeling tourists, if you are a coastal property owner or insurer, government, development bank, cruise line, you can hire Coral Vita to restore the reefs you depend on, ”Teicher said.
With the easing of blockages around the world, the organization looks forward to welcome people back to coral farms and support local communities with funds obtained from ecotourism.
Initially, an ocean nursery is a lot cheaper, but when you start to think about the need to grow millions or billions of corals around the world, land-based facilities start to look a lot more realistic. The cost also decreases with scale – oceanic nurseries cost around US $ 30-40 per coral; we can get it down to US $ 10 while we get to a hundred or a thousand tanks
Sam Teicher, Co-founder and Chief Reef Officer
Teicher explained how the money raised in the start-up cycle will help develop technology that will greatly benefit coral reefs. “What we’re trying to do with this cycle is advance science and engineering, including 3D printing and robotics In the process. We launch R&D projects not only for the restoration but the protection. We are at a point where we need to rethink adaptation and how to finance it. This two-year plan is to start more farms in other countries – at the end of the day, we want them in every country with reefs and this to be the biggest coral farm that has ever existed. “
In August last year, marine scientists and architects from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) designed a Custom 3D printed artificial “reef tiles” for coral attachment to help repopulate coral communities.
In 2019, scientists published an article in Nature Communication, the results of which showed that by playing sounds through underwater speakers, coral reefs can be preserved and restored to life.
Main image courtesy of Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash.