Can market solutions and innovative technologies help the world solve its growing ocean crisis? That’s what the nonprofit Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) hopes, as it recently launched a new startup incubator program in Silicon Valley, the Ocean Solutions Accelerator, with five companies in the initial cohort.
We all know that the world’s oceans are in peril. 19 billion pounds of plastic enters the ocean every year, and microplastics are now being found in bottled water, fish and even table salt. Climate change is killing coral reefs, and there is evidence that bleaching events – which are becoming more frequent – could harm fish diversity and ecosystems. And then there’s the impact of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which is decimating species and pushing some marine ecosystems to the brink of collapse. The problem is evident and growing, and we need solutions fast – and SOA agrees.
“New, bold approaches are needed to fast-track innovation and sustain the health of our planet," says Daniela V. Fernandez, CEO of the Ocean Solutions Accelerator at SOA.
SOA is a young international organization, just founded in 2014, but it has already made a real impact in building a global network for ocean protection. Its international outlook is reflected in the accelerator, which received applications from 26 countries. The five selected startups are diverse, with founders from four different countries, and their solutions address several different ocean challenges: San Francisco-based CalWave focuses on renewable wave energy, while SafetyNet Technologies (London) focus on improving fish catch; BlockCycle (Sydney) has developed a blockchain-powered, transparent, waste-to-value reuse platform; LOLIWARE (NYC) is the world's first bioplastics company dedicated to replacing single-use plastics with hyper-compostable, edible materials derived from seaweed, and ETAC (Culiacán, Mexico*)* is prototyping nanomaterials that can help improve and speed up ocean cleanup.
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“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that validates off the hard work and effort that we have put in to create a startup that can positively and exponentially change the world and the oceans on it,” Phill White, co-founder of BlockCycle, told Sustainable Brands (SB). “We are honored to have been selected and cannot wait to work with SOA, its network of amazing partners and the other startup founders to help BlockCycle achieve huge positive impacts in the future and grow into a great company.”
The accelerator program will begin this summer in San Francisco, and SOA will involve marine scientists and other ocean experts, seasoned entrepreneurs and experienced investors to help each of the five startups figure out how to both bring their product to market fast, but also ensure it has the biggest positive impact on our oceans. Another benefit? By working together, these startups can find synergies and develop partnerships to jointly tackle ocean challenges.
“We've seen how valuable it is to be connected in a community of driven entrepreneurs to support each other facing similar challenges,” said CalWave co-founder and CEO Marcus Lehmann. “For OSA, we are looking forward to connecting with the other participants as we will have much more product-related overlaps.”
To save the world’s oceans, we’ll need action from all sectors – governments, nonprofits, and especially the private sector. If all goes well, we may see products from the Ocean Solutions Accelerator helping protect and preserve a coastline, coral or island near you.
As ETAC Director José Ramírez told us: “We do not just consider this an achievement; in fact, we feel the responsibility of the usage of our technology in the solution of ocean pollution issues.”