Oceans and Climate: Investable Solutions
Above: 2022 Ocean Exchange Winners with Solutions for CO2 and Fisheries Protection: Ocean/Climate Nexus. L-to-R, André Mão de Ferro of C2C-NewCap, Diana Orembe of NovFeed and Jon Asin of BeePlanet Factory
Oceans have continuously regulated our climate in ways beyond our control, from absorbing and storing large amounts of heat that impact weather patterns and water circulation to mitigating dynamic aspects of climate change through various channels. This intersects and impacts our ocean’s ecosystem.
Ocean Exchange, a non-profit organization that accelerates innovation for the blue economy, has continuously supported startups that have direct interests and impacts on our ocean’s ecosystem. Ocean Exchange provides support by re-distributing corporate and family philanthropy to vetted startups via a competitive process. Additionally, Ocean Exchange provides help with network introductions to partners and investors who can help advance the adoption of innovative ocean/climate solutions. Examples of startups that were part of the Ocean Exchange competition include Water Warriors, Ebb Carbon, Ocean Rescue Alliance International (ORAI), Element Resources, Twelve, Coral Vita, and 340 others over its 12-year history. The startups have dedicated themselves to mitigating the impacts of climate change in our oceans by harnessing their solutions directed toward unique focuses. CO2 sequestration, coastal resiliency, emissions reduction, and water management are four of these focuses that have been shown to have a strong connection to oceans and climate.
These approaches are essential in addressing ocean-related climate challenges because they collectively reduce carbon emissions, enhance coastal resilience against sea-level rise, and ensure access to clean freshwater resources. Not only are they imperative for mitigating the impacts of climate change in marine ecosystems and coastal communities, but they also help preserve the delicate equilibrium by addressing the associated challenges. When it comes to oceans and climate, some of the major challenges we are faced with include sea-level rise, extreme weather events, disruption of both human and marine ecosystems, ocean acidification, and more. We will now delve deeper into each of the ocean-climate intersections through the lens of innovative startup companies.
Each of these focuses contributes to the overall mitigation of climate change in our oceans. Organizations with a focus on CO2 sequestration emphasize the ocean’s pivotal role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions created via human activities by absorbing and storing CO2 from the atmosphere. The ocean’s efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions help balance global temperature rises, thus, reducing the risk of sea-level rise and unusual weather patterns around coastal regions and marine environments. Organizations like Ebb Carbon, a startup that has pioneered an ocean-based carbon dioxide removal strategy by exploiting the ocean’s natural ability to safely store CO2, is just one example of emerging solutions aimed at mitigating climate change. Ebb Carbon recently completed a Round A of venture capital of $20 million. Similarly, the carbon transformation company known as Twelve engineered a unique way to recycle captured carbon through its proprietary CO2Made® carbon transformation technology. Twelve raised $187 million in its A and B Rounds of venture capital, has significant industrial partnerships, and recently broke ground on its first commercial-scale production facility for aviation fuel. In Ocean Exchange’s eleven completed years, eleven finalists have pitched to our group of investors and subject matter experts about CO2 sequestration. Finalists have presented sequestration solutions based on various types of chemistry, including electrochemistry, and natural solutions like kelp and algae.
Coastal resiliency practices around the globe help reduce the impacts of a changing climate by encouraging the creation of protective coastal infrastructures, natural buffers, and other sustainable safeguarding measures along coastlines. ORAI’s focus on coastal resiliency is apparent from the startup’s 1000 Mermaids Artificial Reef Project initiative, an initiative that seeks to enhance marine resiliency and habitats while providing other benefits to the community. ORAI has installations in Broward County, Florida, and plans to expand its work across other coastal sites throughout Florida. Meanwhile, Coral Vita is developing solutions that encourage the growth of coral reefs up to 50 times faster while boosting their resilience against climate change. This Bahamian company was the inaugural winner of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Earthshot award of $1 million. Over a period greater than a decade, Ocean Exchange featured twenty finalist solutions related to coastal resiliency including Econcrete from Israel, the Mangrove Action Project from the U.S.A. (WA), CALTROPe from Hungary, and IntelliReefs from the U.S.A. (UT).
Investable solutions with a focus on emissions reduction help support sustainable practices, mitigate global temperature rises, reduce ocean acidification, and create innovative technological advancements with economic opportunities. Solutions like Element Resources have been promoting its solution to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change through its development of zero-carbon energy supply infrastructures. This energy storage solution facilitates the use of renewable energy by smoothing out energy availability due to the intermittency of renewable energy production, if from solar or wind for example. Various renewable energy paths are thought to be essential to reducing emissions such as CO2. This in turn reduces the impacts on marine ecosystems and can lead to climate stability. In the period exceeding a decade, Ocean Exchange featured over fifty startup solutions for emissions mitigation and reduction, many reducing emissions at the source or by use of renewable energy. Three winners applied to our process from incubators based in the U.S. Department of Energy National Labs.
Other solutions such as Water Warriors utilize a versatile approach to remove phosphate and other harmful nutrients from water, thereby reducing waste and ocean pollution. Solutions with a water management focus help address the consequences of a changing climate on freshwater resource protection. Effective and sustainable water management practices help safeguard water quality for coastal communities, as well as encourage the reduction of polluting weather runoff. There is a current movement to better integrate the activities of ocean stakeholders and those with land-based water management roles in the search for climate solutions; Ocean Exchange plays an important role in that integration through our solution recruitment process and our expert network.
In conclusion, ocean solutions, such as those in the focuses mentioned above, are imperative to addressing some of our most prominent global concerns. The complex relationship between our oceans and climate demands urgent action. During September 2023 Climate Week in NYC, there were multiple ocean-based climate groups convening to harness the power of different stakeholders for a common mission. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced U.S. federal funding to create and amplify existing accelerators for ocean-based climate solutions. As we strive to restore, protect, and maintain our oceans, it is crucial that we also emphasize the need for accessible capital, philanthropy, and other grants to support innovative solutions. The symbiotic ecosystem of financing, science, and sustainable practices is a preeminent requisite to unlocking a brighter, more resilient future. De-risking these investable solutions is not just an operational and financial strategy but more so a pathway towards safeguarding our planet’s most vital resources. The expansive network of those involved in fostering startups, knowledge sharing, and responsible stewardship can ensure that our oceans remain an important resource in the battle against climate change. The focuses and exemplified solutions mentioned above are a testament to our commitment to a sustainable future for generations to come.
Article by Millicent Pitts and Alex Akkaoui, Ocean Exchange
Millicent “Milly” Pitts is the executive director of the international non-profit, Ocean Exchange, that gives non-dilutive funding to innovative start-ups that support healthy oceans and a sustainable Blue Economy. She previously was an executive in the chemical/materials industry for 30 years, living in Houston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Valencia (Spain). In addition to her role at Ocean Exchange, she is a mentor with Creative Destruction Labs (Oceans) in Halifax, is on the Leadership Team of OceansVisions.org, and has previously mentored or judged in collaboration with other partners such as Clean Tech Open and NREL. She leads the Ocean Exchange efforts to grow and communicate with the community of ocean and blue tech innovators. She holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Alex Akkaoui serves as Ocean Exchange’s Community Manager. Alex is an MBA graduate and current doctoral student at Nova Southeastern University specializing in organizational leadership. He has a strong passion for blue economy startups that seek to advance our learning of the ocean while providing solutions to maintain healthy and diverse marine habitats. Alex anticipates remaining involved in the influential network of organizations that support innovative and sustainable startups as they evolve into scalable solutions.