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General Press Releases

Port of San Diego Adds HyperKelp Inc. to Blue Economy Incubator

The Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners has approved a two-year, $250,000 pilot project agreement with HyperKelp Inc. through its Blue Economy Incubator (BEI). As a catalyst for the region’s Blue Economy, the Port of San Diego established its Blue Economy Incubator in 2016 as a launching pad for sustainable aquaculture and Port-related blue technology ventures.

HyperKelp Inc. is the tenth company to join the Blue Economy Incubator. HyperKelp is an early-stage company specializing in the custom development of smart buoy platforms (known as Kelp Smart Buoy). The buoy platforms can collect and aggregate data in near real-time and display results on an online dashboard. This technology will monitor underwater noise levels, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and various water quality parameters. This monitoring technology will help inform and support the development of several Port initiatives including the following:

  • Shellfish and seaweed aquaculture planning efforts, environmental protection, conservation, restoration, enhancement, and nature-based solutions projects.
  • The Vessel Speed Reduction Program (VSR), which helps reduce maritime emissions, as well as underwater noise, which can provide additional benefits to the marine ecosystem.
  • Reducing maritime emissions is also in alignment with the Maritime Clean Air Strategy (MCAS).

“In testing out and facilitating new and innovative technologies that have environmental and economic benefits, the Port of San Diego’s Blue Economy Incubator continues to cement our place as a Port of firsts,” said Chairman Rafael Castellanos, Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners. “Our commitment to the development of a sustainable ocean economy honors our role as environmental champions and solidifies San Diego Bay as the Blue Tech Bay.”

"Our Kelp Smart Buoy changes the way end users access ocean data,” said HyperKelp Inc. CEO Graeme Rae. “The Port of San Diego is the first large commercial port to recognize Kelp Smart Buoy’s capability and will be using it as part of their commitment to a more resilient San Diego Bay.”

"We are looking forward to working with the Port and opening up comprehensive access to their environmental data from the entire San Diego Bay,” said HyperKelp Inc. CTO Costas Soler. “Once again, the Port of San Diego will be setting the bar for all other commercial ports across the US and around the world."

To date, the Board of Port Commissioners has approved ten agreements with early-stage companies, including one re-investment, to launch innovative pilot projects, four of which have been completed. Aside from the newest addition to the BEI, the following are active BEI projects:

  • ECOncrete: In 2020, ECOncrete joined the Port’s BEI to demonstrate a new design of its tidepool shoreline armoring technology called Coastalock. This technology serves as a replacement for traditional riprap and was installed at two locations along Harbor Island in March 2021. The interlocking tidal pool system is made from biologically-enhanced concrete as a sustainable solution to provide shoreline stabilization while simultaneously creating a robust local ecosystem that mimics natural tidepools, as well as increases local biodiversity and biological productivity.
  • ecoSPEARS: Approved by the Board in 2020, the ecoSPEARS pilot project set out to demonstrate the company’s innovative in-situ soil remediation technology. ecoSPEARS is the exclusive licensee of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-patented SPEARS technology, which was invented by a team of NASA environmental scientists as a green remediation solution to extract contaminants from impacted marine sediment. The pilot focuses on the deployment of over 450 ecoSPEARS units in three different locations around the bay where the technology passively absorbs contaminants.
  • FREDsense: In 2021, the Port approved FREDsense Technologies for a pilot project to develop a portable five-in-one field-testing sensor device to provide near real-time metals analysis for stormwater monitoring. Under the pilot, FREDsense is developing a prototype to demonstrate the feasibility of automatically testing levels of aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, and nickel – all of which are of importance for stormwater compliance monitoring.
  • San Diego Bay Aquaculture: Since 2017, San Diego Bay Aquaculture is testing if a shellfish nursery, called a FLUPSY (Floating Upweller System), can be effective in helping address a coast-wide shellfish seed shortage. The FLUPSY is a floating barge that circulates water through compartments or bins holding shellfish, in this case oysters, as they grow from about the size of a red pepper flake to about the size of a quarter. After being in the FLUPSY, shellfish are transported to a farm where they will grow to market size. The project was one of two BEI projects recently featured in the TODAY Show’s Earth Week coverage for NBC Climate.
  • Sunken Seaweed: Sunken Seaweed, an aquaculture start-up company led by two marine ecologists, joined the Port’s BEI to demonstrate the feasibility of seaweed aquaculture in San Diego Bay. Sunken Seaweed established a seaweed hatchery at San Diego State University’s Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory and installed their submerged seaweed pilot farm using assets, such as docks and piers, managed by the Port. Since 2018, the company has been successfully cultivating, outplanting, growing, monitoring, and harvesting several species of seaweed native to Southern California. Beyond commercialization, results from the pilot project are helping assess and quantify seaweed aquaculture’s multiple co-benefits, from carbon sequestration and bioremediation to improving water quality and ecosystem productivity. In 2022, the Port reinvested in an expansion of Sunken Seaweed's pilot which enables the company to build and continue its research in San Diego Bay while expanding operations to Humboldt Bay where they will benefit from shoreside facilities to help them reach market scale. This project was featured in the TODAY Show’s Earth Week coverage for NBC Climate in April 2023.

The Port of San Diego is committed to the development of a sustainable ocean economy and to explore new opportunities that deliver multiple social, environmental, and economic co-benefits to the Port and the region. In exchange for funding or in-kind support provided to launch the pilot projects, the Port receives a royalty from the businesses’ operations or technology. To date, the Port has committed $2 million in funding, has attracted outside funding for blue economy initiatives, provided access and use of Port-owned property, and assisted with obtaining all necessary regulatory and operational permits, coordinated the installation of pilot projects, and collaborated on marketing and communications.

Throughout the program, the Port has received multiple awards recognizing its unique approach to Port-based Blue Economy innovation through pilot project facilitation and has been recognized by state and federal agencies, industry, and academia for providing pathways for the sustainable development of aquaculture and blue technology in the region. Learn more about the Port of San Diego’s Blue Economy Incubator and read the full report at

About THE Port of San Diego

The Port of San Diego serves the people of California as a specially created district, balancing multiple uses on 34 miles along San Diego Bay spanning five cities. Collecting no tax dollars, the Port manages a diverse portfolio to generate revenues that support vital public services and amenities.

The Port champions Maritime, Waterfront Development, Public Safety, Experiences and Environment, all focused on enriching the relationship people and businesses have with our dynamic waterfront. From cargo and cruise terminals to hotels and restaurants, from marinas to museums, from 22 public parks to countless events, the Port contributes to the region’s prosperity and remarkable way of life on a daily basis.


Port of San Diego Environment champions the safekeeping and environmental care of our diverse ecosystems. Year after year, environmental goals are set and measured to evolve environmental initiatives – ensuring San Diego Bay remains a vibrant resource and contributes to a remarkable way of life for visitors and residents for generations to come.