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Shark Safe Barrier

Shark Barrier

SharkSafe Barrier, which Sara co-founded, provides an environmentally friendly alternative to keeping both humans and marine animals safe

Shark Barrier

When Italian marine biologist Dr Sara Andreotti began studying for her PhD at Stellenbosch University and learned that there were only 300-500 white sharks left on South Africa’s coastline, she knew that something needed to be done. The shark nets and drum lines introduced to our country in the 1950s were causing more harm than good. While they may have been protecting surfers and swimmers from shark interactions, they were also trapping and killing the sharks. “Gill nets trap a lot of other harmless species, too,” says Sara, listing whales, dolphins, turtles and manta rays as some of the unfortunate victims. Even lethal baited hooks (drum lines) specifically targeted at sharks are not a sustainable solution. “These large predators are important for the ecosystem,” Sara says.

SharkSafe Barrier, which Sara co-founded, provides an environmentally friendly alternative to keeping both humans and marine animals safe. The underwater barrier, comprising of staggered rows of separated vertical pipes anchored to the ocean floor and reaching above the water surface, resembles a dense accumulation of kelp. “Sharks know what a thick forest of kelp looks like, and they don’t like it,” says Sara, whose team studied shark behaviour and deterrent technology for more than five years, learning, among other things, how seals hide from their predators within such forests. “Sharks see how the pipes behave like kelp, moving with the waves, so they don’t come close to them.” When visibility is poor and the sharks happen to get too near, magnets inserted in the pipes deter them from approaching further. “They create a magnetic field that overpowers the sharks’ electromagnetic senses,” explains Sara.

“This is not going to solve the declining number of sharks on its own,” she says, “but it is a great step in the right direction, allowing everyone to enjoy the ocean without hurting it.”

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Symbytech

Symbytech

Growing up along the coast and witnessing the polluted state of the waters, Grant du Toit knew he would one day do work related to the ocean environment.

Symbytech

Growing up along the coast and witnessing the polluted state of the waters, Grant du Toit knew he would one day do work related to the ocean environment. As an electronics engineer, he has spent many years working with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in an underwater setting, and has now brought that experience to SymbyTech, a company he has founded to help reduce the greenhouse gases being emitted by ocean vessels.

The robot he and his team are pioneering is an underwater drone that inspects and cleans the hulls of ships.

“Biofouling grows on the hulls,” Grant says, using a term that means the accumulation of micro-organisms like algae and bacteria on submerged artificial structures. This layer upon layer of undesirable growth causes a great reduction in the speed with which a vessel is able to glide through water. “It causes drag,” he explains. “And, because it slows boats down, they need to burn more fuel to go faster, resulting in an increase in greenhouse gases.”

The solid component of these gases, which ends up in the water, adds to the ocean acidity, destroying coral reefs that are essential for marine life, and contaminating fish consumed by humans. “If we can reduce the amount of biofouling, we can reduce the emissions,” says Grant.

Although the SymbyTech underwater drone is still in its prototype phase, Grant has ambitious dreams for making it a tool international vessels can use in a proactive manner. “I would hope to have it located in many major ports, grooming vessels regularly to prevent the problem of biofouling before it even occurs.”

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Captain fanplastic

Captain Fanplastic

Captain Fanplastic raises awareness about plastic and litter and inspires behavioural change in primary-school children, including encouraging them to reduce

Captain Fanplastic

“The ocean starts at your doorstep,” says Ruben Hazelzet, Director of Captain Fanplastic, an environmental literacy programme educating Grade 3-5 learners on the impact land-based pollution has on the marine environment. “It’s such a mystery to the majority of the population because people are so disconnected from the ocean.”

Captain Fanplastic raises awareness about plastic and litter and inspires behavioural change in primary-school children, including encouraging them to reduce their use of plastic. Its interactive programme is based on storytelling and gamification.

It goes beyond the everyday clean-up events – usually attended by people who are already environmentally conscious – and addresses children whose opinions of the world are still being formed. “They have room to progress because they don’t yet have a lot of ingrained behaviour, and they still have a great ability for fantasy, so they immerse themselves in the world of Captain Fanplastic but then still act on it in reality,” says Ruben.

The world he refers to comes alive in a fun story book where Captain Fanplastic – the main character, who appears at the school events – along with many characters he meets along the way, discover how trash can be treasure. After teaching the children about the 5Rs (refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle), the kids create eye patches from plastic bottle tops and turn into pirates, with a mission to find their own treasure. Armed with a map to document their findings, they set off for a treasure hunt on a beach, or at a park or river, collecting trash from the environment.

“There’s an explosion of thrill and excitement, and in 45 minutes the whole beach is clean,” says Ruben. “By gamifying it, they really want to walk the talk.”

Since launching last year, Captain Fanplastic has visited 12 schools, impacting over 1,000 learners while fostering environmental custodianship. It leaves a “treasure bin” at schools to make trash collection and recycling easier – all part of its vision for sustainable behavioural change.

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Mean Sea Level

Mean Sea Level

Traditionally, solar and wind power have become the go-to clean alternatives for energy generation, but Mean Sea Level is looking to add a new option to the mix by developing the world’s first truly commercially viable wave-energy technology, something that has not yet been achieved at significant scale.

Mean Sea Level

Traditionally, solar and wind power have become the go-to clean alternatives for energy generation, but Mean Sea Level is looking to add a new option to the mix by developing the world’s first truly commercially viable wave-energy technology, something that has not yet been achieved at significant scale.

“It’s really, really difficult to build in the ocean – you need very specific expertise,” says Managing Director Marius Hugo, adding that the cost of innovation in marine construction requires huge investment. His family, who co-founded the South African abalone industry in Hermanus and has been working in aquaculture for more than 30 years, recognised how abalone farms could benefit hugely from a renewable energy resource, making one of the farms the perfect testing ground for Mean Sea Level’s 1MW pilot project.

By building an on-shore dam higher than mean sea level, alongside the ocean, Marius and his team will capture the wild energy carried by the waves. The sloped dam wall allows waves to enter the dam over the top or via non-return valves, and then run back to the ocean with the force of gravity. The returning water generates electricity as it moves through a hydro-electric turbine.

“It’s taken us five years to get to where we are,” says Marius, an electronics engineer who has previously worked in the fields of aerospace and chemical engineering. Mean Sea Level’s concept has, during this time, been patented, and once the 1MW project is mastered, it will move on to a 3.5MW project, which has already been given the environmental go-ahead. Future dreams include powering other aquaculture farms, coastal cities and more isolated towns and industries that require alternatives to the national electricity grid.

Although Mean Sea Level is currently constructing and testing the technology on its own, Marius hopes to get big construction companies involved once the construction technique is proven. “And then we can focus on project development and innovation,” he says.

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Inseco

Inseco

There is a big problem in our oceans that many of us are not aware of, and that’s the amount of fish being caught simply to create fishmeal – something that has been produced for many, many years.

Inseco

There is a big problem in our oceans that many of us are not aware of, and that’s the amount of fish being caught simply to create fishmeal – something that has been produced for many, many years. Fishmeal is a brown powder obtained after cooking, drying and squeezing forage fish, which is then used as a source of protein to feed farmed fish, as well as pets and poultry.

“These forage fish are very important to the marine ecosystem, and when you cut them out, a variety of other species are compromised,” says Simon Hazell, co-founder and CEO of Inseco, a start-up that has found a sustainable alternative to the problem. “We farm insects and turn them into a high-protein powder that is used to replace resource-intensive products such as fishmeal and soybean meal,” he explains.

The Inseco team diverts organic food waste from landfill and uses black soldier flies to decompose this waste – solving another environmental issue simultaneously. The fly larvae consume the organic by-products and grow very quickly. They are then harvested and turned into an insect-protein powder that is both cost effective and environmentally sustainable.

“For every tonne of fishmeal and fish oil produced, four tonnes of wild-caught fish are needed,” says Simon. This means that a staggering 30-million tonnes of fish are caught annually just for the eight-million tonnes of fishmeal and fish oil required in the aquaculture industry each year.

Inseco completed its pilot facility in 2019 and is in the process of setting up a factory where it will farm black soldier flies who feed on organic by-products from various industries. In so doing, it will save thousands of tonnes of forage fish from being caught, thereby nurturing our marine ecosystem.

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Impact Free

Impact-Free Water

Remember when Cape Town was experiencing its devastating drought and we couldn’t understand how a coastal city could not have sufficient water? Turns out that gaining potable water from the ocean is usually a very costly and environmentally destructive process that requires vast amounts of electricity

Impact-Free Water

Remember when Cape Town was experiencing its devastating drought and we couldn’t understand how a coastal city could not have sufficient water? Turns out that gaining potable water from the ocean is usually a very costly and environmentally destructive process that requires vast amounts of electricity.

Simon Wijnberg, the founder and CEO of Impact-Free Water, has seen this problem present itself around the world as his passion for diving and a professional career in the marine environment have taken him to many seaside communities that have no access to clean water.

“Water is life,” says Simon, pointing to the health and sanitation consequences faced when clean water is not available. This is why Impact-Free Water has been developing a cost-effective, eco-friendly solution to turn seawater into drinking water by harnessing the power of waves in a non-intrusive way. Wave energy is used to pump ocean water to shore through an underwater pipeline, where it feeds and drives a reverse osmosis process to produce fresh water.

“Wave power offers a very good solution because it’s so available to us,” says Simon, adding that electricity (produced from the wave pressure) becomes a useful by-product of this innovative system. “It’s a win-win scenario.”

Current projects include one in Saldanha, where Impact-Free Water is working with the local community to eventually get water to places that need it most, as well as a pilot semi-commercial plant in Coega, near Port Elizabeth, where it is aiming to supply 160 kilolitres of fresh water per day to a mariculture farm. It is also putting wave-powered desalination to the test at the University of Namibia’s Sam Nujoma campus in Henties Bay, supplying drinking water and electricity to the campus.

Says Simon of his motivation to create sustainable solutions for the future: “If people who know about the problems don’t do something about them, then who will? It’s a worthy cause to dedicate my life to.”

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