San Diego’s Blue Tech Bay
As a leader, the Port is actively driving the sustainable development of the Blue Economy. By supporting entrepreneurship and partnering with other leaders in research and innovation, the Port is bringing advanced solutions to San Diego Bay, affirming its reputation as the Blue Tech Bay.
As environmental champions of San Diego Bay, our Blue Economy Incubator is just one of the ways we are leveraging technology to help preserve and protect our planet’s resources while serving the needs of today’s world. We recently had the opportunity to educate TODAY Show audiences on the many benefits of aquaculture and blue technology by showcasing our Blue Economy Incubator.
(Link opens to the TODAY Show website.)
Aquaculture & Blue Technology Program
The Port established the Aquaculture and Blue Technology Program recognizing the growth opportunities of the Blue Economy sector and its strategic position within the world’s leading blue technology clusters.
Aquaculture is the practice of growing plants and/or animals in aquatic environments. This can occur in fresh or salt water and it can be done for food production or for other purposes such as alternative fuel, packaging, bioremediation, and fertilizers.
The Port is taking an active leadership role in the expanding domestic aquaculture industry and facilitating early development of regional marine aquaculture projects.
Blue Economy Incubator (BEI)
The Port’s Blue Economy Incubator (BEI) is building a portfolio of businesses and partnerships that deliver multiple social, environmental, and economic co-benefits to the Port and the region by removing barriers to entrepreneurs and providing funding, key assets, support services including entitlement and permitting assistance, and pilot project facilitation.
Ideas to work sustainably within the marine environment can come from anywhere. The best ideas will transition into concepts, design plans, and then prototypes. After the testing and validation is completed within a lab setting, it’s time to deploy the technology in a real-world setting. That’s when the Port’s BEI can play a role and help emerging businesses deploy their products and services in and around San Diego Bay.
To be considered for the BEI, new and early-stage ventures follow a four-step application process which includes the submission of a “pitch deck” and various stages of review. It all starts with a discussion with the Port’s BEI team.
To date, the Port has committed $1.7 million in funding, provided use of Port-owned property, assisted with obtaining all necessary regulatory and operational permits, coordinated the installation of the pilot projects, and helped with community and media relations.
Blue Economy Pilot Projects
Sustainable Seaweed AquacultureSustainable Seaweed Aquaculture
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 pilot farm using assets, such as docks and piers, managed by the Port. The company is 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 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 the burgeoning industry in and around San Diego Bay, while expanding operations to Humbolt Bay where they will benefit from shoreside facilities to help them reach market scale. Sunken Seaweed was recently showcased during a 2023 NBC “Climate Today” series with host and NOAA emissary, Al Roker.
Bio-enhancing Shoreline ArmoringBio-enhancing Shoreline Armoring
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 provides ecological armoring and shoreline stabilization, while also creating well-defined local ecosystems that mimic natural tide pools. The pilot project has been monitored since installation and data demonstrates an increase in biodiversity, species richness, and abundance on ECOncrete’s Coastalock units compared to the traditional riprap. Through the Port’s pilot, Coastalock units have achieved technological validation and units have since been deployed in new projects around the world. Additionally, the Coastalock unit won the 2022 Design Educates Award and the 2022 ASCE Award for Outstanding Airports and Ports Project.
Stormwater Monitoring DeviceStormwater Monitoring Device
The Port approved FREDsense Technologies for a pilot project to develop a portable five-in-one field-testing sensor device to provide real-time metals analysis for stormwater monitoring. FREDsense automatically tests levels of aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, and nickel – all of which are known to enter San Diego Bay through stormwater. The system provides real-time data in the field, which is significantly faster than the several weeks necessary to receive traditional laboratory results, allowing for quicker adjustments to Best Management Practices.
Sediment Remediation in Marine EnvironmentsSediment Remediation in Marine Environments
The Port approved ecoSPEARS for a pilot project to demonstrate its innovative in-situ technology to extract and remediate contaminants from marine sediment. ecoSPEARS is the exclusive licensee of the NASA-patented SPEARS technology, which was invented by a team of NASA environmental scientists as a green remediation solution. The pilot focused on the deployment of the ecoSPEARS in three different locations around the bay where the SPEARS acted like sponges, passively absorbing contaminants. The pilot project is near completion and helped ecoSPEARS achieve several milestones. Data from the pilot is expected to be published soon and ecoSPEARS is now engaging other markets in the Pacific Islands, leading to scaled-up deployments.
Shellfish NurseryShellfish Nursery
San Diego Bay Aquaculture is testing if a shellfish nursery, called a FLUPSY, or 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 when they are ready to go to the farm. The operation of the FLUPSY, combined with the region’s mild weather and nutrient-rich water, offers a competitive advantage over northern shellfish nursery sites because seed to harvest time is reduced up to one year compared to northern locations. After being in the FLUPSY, shellfish will be transported to a farm where it will grow to market size. Approvals to conduct this pilot have been slow to obtain, but San Diego Bay Aquaculture is using the FLUPSY to conduct much needed research for oysters, abalone, and seaweeds, and production is expected to begin this year (2023). The FLUPSY is being more widely recognized after being showcased during a 2023 NBC “Climate Today” series with host and NOAA emissary, Al Roker.
Marine Debris Removal – Pilot CompletedMarine Debris Removal – Pilot Completed
Zephyr Debris Removal joined the BEI aiming to demonstrate the effectiveness and scalability of its custom-made, debris-removing vessel in San Diego Bay. The vessel uses skimming technology and is designed to remove marine debris, such as plastic bottles and other trash, and solve a variety of logistical hurdles including efficient removal of small debris and access to shallow and/or rough water. During the pilot project, Zephyr collected 33,000 pounds of debris and developed a database for key variables influencing marine debris accumulation in San Diego Bay – such as seasons, weather events and tidal swings. Zephyr went on to collect an additional 77,000 pounds of debris during a follow-on contract with the Port. In total, Zephyr removed 110,000 pounds of debris.
Drive-in Boatwash technologyDrive-in Boatwash technology
The Port collaborated with Swedish Company Rentunder to demonstrate whether their Boatwash technology can be a feasible alternative to current in-water hull cleaning practices in San Diego Bay. Rentunder’s entire cleaning process is conducted within the enclosed basin which can accommodate both sailboats and motorboats up to 53-feet in length, is designed to retain residual debris and particulate matter and reduce copper released into bays and harbors. During Phase 1 of the pilot project, Rentunder installed the Boatwash and coordinated three controlled cleaning events and concurrent water quality sampling. For Phase 2, Rentunder is planning to install a new Boatwash with the latest technology, which includes new brushes, improved alignment, a more advanced gate, and an improved filtration unit to collect particulate.
Copper Remediation TechnologyCopper Remediation Technology
The Port approved a pilot project with Red Lion Chem Tech’s to demonstrate their technology to remove dissolved copper from seawater using absorbent media filtration material. Red Lion conducted laboratory demonstrations of their resin technology using San Diego Bay water with test results showing up to 85% efficiency in removing copper.
Smart Marina TechnologySmart Marina Technology
Swell Advantage joined the BEI as a technology startup developing operation support tools to assist marina professionals in automating and optimizing their operations and enhancing customer experiences. Since the completion of the pilot project, Swell Advantage has finalized the development of their smart marina app in partnership with a local marina in San Diego Bay, generated sales across North America, and established strategic technology partnerships. The one-year pilot project was completed in collaboration with a local marina in San Diego Bay. In 2019, Swell Advantage teamed up with Square – a payment and point of sale (POS) company – to better service marinas and waterfronts across the U.S. and Canada and meet boaters’ customer service expectations in a digital world.