Restoring lost coral reefs and growing more climate-resilient ones is the mission of Coral Vita, a Bahama-based company.
Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern met at Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and soon discovered a shared concern for the dying coral reefs of the oceans.
"I grew up in San Diego, California, where I spent as much time as I could in the ocean and in the waves and my co-founder Sam's been a scuba diver since he was 13 years old," says Coral Vita co-founder, Gator Halpern.
"Even in our relatively short lifetimes, we've been able to see how drastically the ocean environments have changed, especially coral reefs, which have collapsed all around the world."
The livelihoods of one billion people depend on coral reefs, but they are dying rapidly due to climate change. In the last 70 years, half of the world’s reefs have been lost and 90 per cent are likely to disappear by 2050.
Over 25 per cent of all marine species live in coral reefs and they also provide coastal protection from waves, storms, and floods.
"Coral reefs are really the cornerstone of life in our oceans, and therefore in many ways life on our entire planet," says Gator.
What is acidification?
Ocean acidification is one of the main threats to coral reefs.
As the climate changes, the seas are warming, while also absorbing a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, turning our oceans into a huge carbon sink.
But as carbon is absorbed by the world's oceans, it changes the chemistry of the seawater so that it becomes slightly more acidic.
This combination of acidification and rising temperatures threatens the health of coral reefs, placing stress on these unique ecosystems.
"With our love for the environment, and for the ocean, we decided we couldn't just study the science and watch what was happening. We wanted to try to create a mission-driven company doing our best to address this issue we care so much about."
Can coral reefs be saved?
In May 2019, the pair launched Coral Vita, the world’s first land-based commercial coral farm in Freeport, Grand Bahamas. They have developed a hi-tech farming solution to grow more resistant, diverse coral and restore reefs around the Bahamas and beyond.
They grow 24 different types of indigenous coral, 50 times faster than in the wild, and breed the coral so that it is more resistant to the effects of climate change.
Coral Vita’s innovative approach to coral farming was awarded one of the first-ever Earthshot Prizes for environmental innovation, which were launched by the Royal Foundation and Prince William earlier this year.
Coral Vita was awarded the Prize in the 'Revive our Oceans' category and they will receive £1 million (€1.2 million) prize money. This will enable the company to establish a global network of coral farms and grow a billion corals each year.
Watch the video above to learn more about the project.