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Blue Economy

The Port of San Diego is committed to fostering the development of a sustainable ocean economy by acting as a catalyst for the region’s Blue Economy.

San Diego Bay Fisheye aerial view


As an environmental champion, the Port of San Diego 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. 

screenshot of Paula Sylvia on stage in front of the large red Ted X San Diego sign

TedTalk San Diego 

The Port's Blue Economy Incubator (BEI) has generated 24 national media exposure pieces and international coverage that has reached millions of viewers, including a TedTalk by BEI program director Paula Sylvia titled, “Ports Can be Catalysts for Blue Economy Innovation.”  


In the eight years since the Port launched the Blue Economy Incubator, it remains the only such program based at and operated by a port.

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 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.

Innovation Opportunities

There are various areas of opportunity for businesses interested in proposing their technology for consideration to join the incubator. Some innovation opportunities include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Coastal Resiliency and Monitoring 
  • Environmental Protection and Remediation 
  • Maritime Decarbonization 
  • Nature Based Solutions 
  • Ocean Data 
  • Shellfish and Seaweed Aquaculture

BEI Value Proposition

The success of the BEI is based on the Port's value proposition of pilot project facilitation, along with the Port-wide collaboration process.  

  • Funding  
  • Port-based pilot sites 
  • Regulatory and permitting assistance 
  • Subject matter expertise 
  • Strategic stakeholder collaboration 
  • Public relations and media visibility 
  • Support to leverage grant and investment opportunities  

This is what makes the Port’s BEI the only one of its kind in the world. 


ECOnrete insallation

Our Impact In Numbers



$1.95millionin funding for pilot projects

Click for BEI Highlights Report
a barge with a crane sits to the right of the shore, triangular concrete blocks are also along the shore

Active Blue Economy Pilot Projects

  • Sensor Agnostic Smart Buoys - HyperKelp

    Sensor Agnostic Smart Buoys - HyperKelp

    In 2023, the Port partnered with HyperKelp Inc. to demonstrate a sensor agnostic “smart” buoy platform. 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 shellfish and seaweed aquaculture planning efforts, environmental protection, conservation, restoration, enhancement, and nature-based solutions projects. It also compliments 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 Port’s Maritime Clean Air Strategy (MCAS).

  • Sustainable Seaweed Aquaculture

    Sustainable 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.

    Download Sunken Seaweed Scorecard
  • Stormwater Monitoring Device

    Stormwater 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.

    Download FREDsense Technologies Scorecard
  • Shellfish Nursery

    Shellfish 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.

    Download San Diego Bay Aquaculture Scorecard

Completed Blue Economy Pilot 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 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, the 2022 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Award for Outstanding Airports and Ports Project, and the 2024 Climate Leadership Awards (CLA) from the Climate Registry for the Innovative Partnership Category. 

    Download ECOncrete Scorecard
  • ecoSPEARS


    In 2020, the Port approved a pilot project with ecoSpears to demonstrate innovative in-situ technology to extract contaminants such as PCBs from impacted 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 487 ecoSPEARS units in two different locations within the bay where the technology passively absorbed contaminants. Based on third-party laboratory analysis, the installed SPEARS removed greater than 1,284 ug of PCBs after two years of deployment. The pilot project enabled ecoSPEARS to achieve several validation and commercialization milestones. In 2023, ecoSPEARS was recognized with the Bronze Edison Award winner for the category of Sustainability - Green Remediation. ecoSPEARS was listed in the top 250 green tech companies by Time Magazine based on their positive environmental impact, financial strength, and innovation. 

    Download ecoSPEARS Scorecard
  • Zephyr Debris Removal

    Zephyr Debris Removal

    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.

    Download Zephyr Debris Removal LLC Scorecard
  • Rentunder


    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.

    Download Rentunder Scorecard
  • Smart Marina Technology

    Smart 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.

    Download Swell Advantage Scorecard
Today Show's Al Roker at San Diego Bay with two other men.

BEI on the TODAY Show

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 had the opportunity to educate TODAY Show audiences on the many benefits of aquaculture and blue technology by showcasing our Blue Economy Incubator.

Click here to see why our projects are making waves across the nation.

(Link opens to the TODAY Show website.)