A Cornish company, founded by professional divers, has been awarded a £60,000 Innovate UK grant to build artificial habitats around off-shore constructions.
“Most reef restoration programmes are currently paid for by NGOs and charities,” says Tom Birbeck, CEO, ARC Marine. “We wanted to create something much more scalable, so targeted offshore oil platform and wind farm developers with an attractive proposition, both financially and ecologically.”
The company uses hollow, stackable, ‘LEGO-like’ reef cubes that protect seabed infrastructure, such as cables, while providing commercial and endangered species with a place to hide, sleep, hunt and breed.
Unlike the ‘concrete mattresses’ currently in operation, these cubes are not classed as ‘marine litter’ and do not need to be recovered at great expense during decommissioning.
While coral reefs attract headlines, ARC Marine is focusing on flat oyster reefs which have declined by 85% globally and 95% in Europe since 1890. A single oyster can filter 180 litres of water per day, consuming farm fertiliser runoff, preventing algae from suffocating ocean ecosystems and providing habitats for marine life.
ARC Marine aims to become the global leader in accelerating reef creation, with every offshore construction project around the world using reef cubes. But for now, Tom sees the company as at a “critical tipping point”, moving out of early-stage R&D and needing to raise finance, internationalise and reach new clients quickly, all while navigating the pandemic.