The 2023 Ocean Exchange Awards are just around the corner. That means another batch of innovative companies will soon by vying for top prizes – and the recognition that their solutions can play a role in nurturing healthier oceans and a more sustainable blue economy.
Focusing on oceans, healthy coastal systems, and the decarbonization of ocean transportation, the Ocean Exchange Awards offers startups the chance to accelerate their growth – with three winners each receiving $100,000 in prize money.
This year’s competition is shaping up to be its toughest yet with an 18% increase in the number of applications accepted for consideration. The Awards act as a springboard for many companies – helping them connect with potential investors, secure pilots and expand their teams.
We caught up with four previous finalists to learn how they’ve grown since participating.
CoralVita establishes itself as a rising star in reef regeneration
2018 Winner, Ocean Exchange Neptune Award
Based in: The Bahamas
Coral reefs are much more than just marine habitats. Through coastal protection, tourism, and fisheries, reefs also generate an estimated $2.7 trillion annually and sustain the livelihoods of up to one billion people. Yet half of global coral reefs have died since the 1970s and over 90% are on track to die by 2050 due to a combination of climate change, pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction.
Coral Vita was created to change the way reefs are restored and rebuilt. The company sells restoration as a service (RaaS) to reef-dependent customers; a departure from typical restoration projects that are often dependent on grants and donations. Coral Vita’s technology involves using land-based coral farms to grow coral up to 50 times faster – helping communities sustain their reef health and diversity from a single location.
Since participating in Ocean Exchange, Coral Vita’s momentum has accelerated. It raised a pre-seed and seed funding round and was one of five companies to win a coveted Earthshot Prize in 2021, including £1 million in additional funding.
The Earthshot win opened new opportunities for the team; it secured a pilot project with Dubai Ports and a contract to operate a coral farm in Saudi Arabia’s new smart city NEOM.
“We’ve gone from strength to strength at Coral Vita. In addition to our projects in the Middle East, we have expanded to three reef restoration sites at our home in the Bahamas and are working with The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Carnival Cruise Line to market the coral farm as a leading eco-destination for visitors,” says Sam Teicher, Co-Founder of Coral Vita.
“We’ve also signed brand partnership deals with companies such as Corona Beer UK and Cariuma to fund coral restoration and are investing in our team and local community – having hired our first Chief Operating Officer in Austin Martin and expanded our paid internship program for Bahamians.”
“We’re currently planning a Series A round in 2024 to further fuel our mission and impact – with a vision to create large-scale, self-sustaining facilities in every nation with coral reefs and helping preserve ecosystem health for future generations.”
Ebb Carbon installs its first systems to capture CO2 and boost ocean resilience
2022 Finalist, Ocean Exchange Neptune Award
Based in: San Carlos, California
The ocean is one of the planet’s largest carbon sinks, but it’s also a victim of climate change. Rising emissions are making oceans more acidic, which consequently can alter marine food chains and impact food supply. Ebb Carbon is an ocean-based carbon dioxide removal (CDR) company developing technology that enhances and accelerates the ocean’s natural ability to capture and permanently store CO2 from the atmosphere. It delivers a one-two punch; tapping into the ocean’s natural processes to extract acid out of seawater, reversing the acidification of the oceans while also pulling CO2 out of the air.
Its modular system is designed to be sited near any industrial source of salty water, including desalination plants, aquaculture facilities, and manufacturing or energy production facilities that circulate ocean water for cooling. The system can also process seawater directly from the ocean.
Just a few months after being named a finalist for Ocean Exchange’s 2022 Neptune award, Ebb Carbon raised a $20 million Series A round – securing the largest investment in ocean-based carbon removal technology to date. Now, the company is beginning to deploy its first systems, including a 100 ton-CO2 per year system at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Lab in Sequim, WA in partnership with NOAA.
On the announcement, Ebb Carbon’s CEO and Co-Founder Ben Tarbell said:
“While Ebb’s approach to removing CO2 from the atmosphere is novel technologically, it has been perfected over billions of years through the Earth’s natural processes. By accentuating natural processes in the vastness of the ocean, we see a highly scalable and cost-effective CO2 removal solution that is restorative and compatible with a sustainable future.”
NovFeed seeks to revolutionize the production of alternative protein ingredients
2022 Winner, Ocean Exchange Neptune Award
Based in: Tanzania
Every year, over 20 million tons of wild fish are caught and processed into feed – further stressing already dwindling fish populations. But Tanzania-based NovFeed has developed a new approach; offering a sustainable, high-protein alternative feed for fish and livestock. The company uses natural microbes and industrial biotech processes to turn organic waste into a highly concentrated protein product, from which animal feed millers can produce fish feed. Its goal is to provide a scalable and environmentally friendly solution to meet the growing global demand for protein, while mitigating the environmental challenges associated with conventional livestock and aquaculture feed production.
After winning the 2022 Ocean Exchange Neptune Award, NovFeed went on to win the $1 million Milken-Motsepe Prize in AgriTech, which is aimed at advancing progress toward UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Diana Orembe, a microbiologist, and Co-Founder at NovFeed says it’s had a significant impact on their trajectory – enabling the business to invest further in its biotechnological platform and scale its operations.
“Beyond the financial aspect, the recognition from Ocean Exchange boosted our credibility within the sustainable blue economy and the broader biotech industry. This increased visibility attracted strategic partnerships and collaborations, allowing us to access new markets and technologies.”
“It also validated our commitment to addressing critical challenges in ocean health and the sustainable blue economy and we’ve actively engaged in raising awareness about the importance of sustainable protein solutions by participating in industry events, educational initiatives, policy discussions, and by advocating for environmentally responsible practices in the food sector.”
Diana says with additional investment and R&D, NovFeed has the potential to innovate and expand into other areas, including the production of feed additives, enzymes, feed products for other livestock industries, and even protein for human consumption.
HonuWorx readies its subsea robotics system to improve subsea work
2022 Finalist, Ocean Exchange Neptune Award
Based in: UK
HonuWorx is a technology company focused using advanced robotics to drive down the costs and environmental impact of subsea work. Its communications and control platform enables users in multiple locations to see data, collaborate, supervise, and control robotic systems that are beyond line-of-sight.
The company’s goal is to reduce reliance on large, costly, crewed diesel vessels that disrupt and pollute marine environments, and to make the subsea world safer and more accessible for those who defend and sustainably commercialize ocean resources.
CEO Lee Wilson says the technology has several immediate applications across multiple sectors, such as enabling energy companies to reduce their operating emissions, improving margins for new energy sectors such as offshore wind, and improving the health and safety of ocean crews by moving them onshore.
“We are also looking at security applications where there may be a remediation element, such as the removal of historic unexploded ordinances, mine clearance in the Black Sea, and the protection of critical national infrastructure such as pipelines and cables,” added Lee.
Since its participation in the Ocean Exchange Awards, the HonuWorx team has been focused on launching Loggerhead – a new subsea inspection and intervention system designed to operate in all weather conditions.
“We’re looking forward to executing an ‘industry-first’ demonstration of Loggerhead’s major building blocks in Q1 2024,” said Lee.
“We are also focused on scaling our options through the end of this year, with a new headquarters, a number of new hires, and senior appointments.”
The Ocean Exchange Awards will take place October 22-24 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. For more information, visit oceanexchange.org