Coral Vita is racing to restore coral reefs by growing climate-change resilient coral.
Coral reefs make up less than 1% of the surface area of the oceans, and yet, they provide a home for 25% of all marine fish species. Globally, coral reefs contain between 6,000 and 8,000 species of fish. As a point of comparison, across North America, there are 914 species of birds. Humans depend on coral reefs for everything from livelihoods, food, and medicines.
According to Sam Teicher, co-founder of Coral Vita, “There are up to one billion people around the world who depend on reefs for their livelihoods. Reefs conservatively generate $30 billion per year through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection.”
Sam’s co-founder at Coral Vita, Gator Halpern adds, “The ocean provides us, not only most of the oxygen that we breathe, but also food for billions of people around the world.”
However, coral reefs are threatened worldwide. It took between 5,000 and 10,000 for the Great Barrier Reef to be created by nature. And yet, because of overfishing, poor coastal development, pollution and climate change, we expect to lose 75% of all of the world’s coral by 2050, unless we do something about it.
Sam continues, “This is obviously an ecological tragedy, losing such incredible ecosystems, but what we’re also considering is that this is a socio-economic catastrophe.” Gator added, “These issues of ocean degradation are essential for everyone, everywhere. All life forms depend on having healthy coral reefs to survive.”
Coral Vita brings dying reefs back to life by growing climate change resilient corals and transplanting them into degraded reefs. They are establishing a network of land-based coral farms. Sam explains, “We sell coral restoration as a service to customers who depend on healthy reefs, like hotels, governments, the coastal insurance industry.”
Coral Vita works with cutting-edge researchers to grow coral through a process called “assisted evolution.” Assisted evolution allows Coral Vita to boost the climate resilience of coral. Gator and Sam work closely with Dr. Ruth Gates at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, and Dr. David Vaughan of the Mote Marine Lab to commercialize their work.
Sam experienced a coral reef restoration project in Mauritius in 2012 and 2013. The project was funded by a grant from the UN. “I saw fishermen returning to this lagoon,” Sam says. “It was amazing to see, we can bring a reef back to life. But, there is only so much grant funding. Given the scope of the problem…that grant funding model wasn’t going to cut it.”
Sam and Gator both grew up on the ocean. They met while studying at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “We both wanted to make the big changes in the world we think are necessary in order to have our society thrive in the future,” Gator explains. When Sam explained his experience with a coral farm in Mauritius to Gator, Gator says “My eyes lit up. I thought this was an incredible thing. My entrepreneurial mind starting thinking, ‘Hey, this could be a company!’”
Sam and Gator wrote their business plan in their last semester at Yale. Since then, their work has been recognized and supported by organizations such as Echoing Green, Halcyon Incubator, J.M Kaplan Fund, and more.
So far, Coral Vita has raised $1 million to launch and run their pilot coral farm. They are taking pre-orders for an “adopt a coral” campaign.
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Gator Halpern and Sam Teicher
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Coral Vita: http://www.coralvita.co
- Coral Vita on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CoralVitaReefs
- Coral Vita on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/coralvitareefs
- Coral Vita on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CoralVitaReefs
- Movie: Chasing Coral: http://www.chasingcoral.com
- Short Film: Naomi Klein at the Great Barrier Reef: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2016/nov/07/naomi-klein-at-the-great-barrier-reef-under-the-surface
- Ruth Gates: http://gatescorallab.com
- Dr. David Vaughan: https://mote.org/staff/member/david-vaughan
- Book: Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs: https://tonyloyd.com/book