January 28, 2021 — The Port of San Diego has released the second edition of its Blue Economy Incubator Highlights Report, which outlines the performance of  its incubator portfolio based on measurable environmental, social, and financial benefits delivered by the portfolio companies, from pilot project to commercial success.

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. Through the incubator, the Port is seeking innovative aquaculture and blue technology proposals to address the Port’s environmental challenges and inform future blue economy opportunities. To date, the Board of Port Commissioners has approved nine agreements with early-stage companies to launch innovative pilot projects.

“It’s remarkable to see how much has been achieved since starting this program. We have proven that businesses can sustainably use ocean resources to grow our economy, to create jobs, and improve livelihoods, while also protecting and improving the health of our ocean and its ecosystems,” said Commissioner Rafael Castellanos, Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners. “With the work we have seen during these pilot projects, and the potential for future endeavors, I know the San Diego Bay can lead the way and one day be known as the ‘Blue Technology Bay’.”

The latest report includes pilot project overviews, highlights, and current status updates of the various pilot projects.

Program highlights/current status:

  • San Diego Bay Aquaculture: Launched the first commercial shellfish aquaculture project in San Diego Bay. The Port is supporting a long-term planning effort to establish a health baseline and measure the associated environmental benefits of shellfish aquaculture.
  • Rentunder: Completed the first installation of the company’s drive-in Boatwash technology along the West Coast. The pilot is allowing for testing of the Boatwash’s effectiveness to reduce copper inputs into the bay from hull cleaning operations.
  • Swell Advantage: Since the successful completion of the pilot, Swell Advantage has finalized the development of its smart marina app in partnership with a local marina in San Diego Bay, generated sales across North America, and established strategic technology partnerships. In November 2020, the Port received a buyout payment of $150,000 to allow the startup company to scale up.
  • Red Lion Chem Tech: Red Lion is scheduled to field test its absorbent media filtration technology to remove dissolved copper in seawater during phase two of the Boatwash pilot project. Lab testing showed its media filtration technology is up to 85 percent efficient in removing copper from San Diego Bay water.
  • Zephyr: During the one-year pilot, Zephyr’s innovative marine debris skimming vessel removed over 33,000 pounds of marine debris from San Diego Bay. Zephyr also developed a database of key variables influencing marine debris accumulation in the bay. After the pilot, Zephyr contracted with the Port for one year to continue removing trash and debris from San Diego Bay. The company continues to demonstrate its efficient skimming operation and technology with the goal to commercialize throughout California and beyond to help remove debris from other ports and harbors.
  • Sunken Seaweed: The seaweed aquaculture company installed its submerged pilot farm using assets managed by the Port in San Diego Bay. Since the start of the pilot, Sunken Seaweed has been cultivating, outplanting, growing, monitoring, and harvesting several species of seaweed native to Southern California. Sunken Seaweed has also leveraged the assets and results of its pilot to obtain additional grant funding and permits to continue operations, to measure the ecosystem benefits and services that both seaweed and shellfish provide, from carbon sequestration and bioremediation to improving water quality and ecosystem productivity.
  • ecoSPEARS: In December 2020, ecoSPEARS deployed its SPEARS technology at Harbor Island and America’s Cup Harbor in San Diego Bay to test a unique in-situ cleanup solution to extract toxic contaminants from impacted marine sediment. The goal of the ecoSPEARS pilot is to evaluate the reduction in contaminants relative to the starting baseline concentration for a six-month deployment period. Results from the pilot will serve to demonstrate and scale this innovative approach to sediment and soil remediation in Port environments.
  • ECOncrete: In February 2021, ECOncrete will install its COASTALOCK interlocking tide pools at two locations on Harbor Island. The tide pools are made with an environmentally sensitive, low carbon concrete mixture tailored to the San Diego Bay marine environment. The COASTALOCK tide pool is designed to interlock with other COASTALOCK tide pools to create a tide pool system, potentially serving as a replacement for traditional riprap to provide ecological armoring and shoreline stabilization, while also creating well-defined local ecosystems that mimic natural rock pools.
  • FREDsense: In 2020, FREDsense partnered with the Port to develop a portable five-in-one field-testing sensor device to provide real-time metals analysis during stormwater monitoring. FREDsense will create a prototype and test the sensor device during a rain event at the Port. Results from the pilot will allow for case study development in preparation for full commercialization and regulatory approvals.

The Port of San Diego is committed to fostering 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 nine pilot projects, the Port receives a royalty from the businesses’ operations or technology. To date, the Port has committed $1.6 million in funding, provided access and use of Port-owned property, assisted with obtaining all necessary regulatory and operational permits, coordinated the installation of pilot projects, and collaborated on marketing and communications.

The Port’s Blue Economy Incubator 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 in the region. Learn more about the Port of San Diego’s Blue Economy Incubator and read the full report at portofsandiego.org/blueeconomy.