January 5, 2024

ExoForms aim to boost Louisiana’s fish and oyster habitat

An exciting project that we recently completed with Danos and the CCA of Louisiana and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries was recently covered by NOLA.com.

Our ExoForms™ were the ideal solution for this project in that they could be designed for the the site's shallow water (still allowing for boat access) while providing 19 square feet of oyster habitat per ExoForm. By creating new oyster habitat this project will support a healthy and productive marine life system which, in turn, will support the local fishing community. It's a great example of the ongoing positive benefits that can be generated by helping restore a system to a harmonious, natural balance. It's also one of the first projects that was serviced by our Louisiana-based Resilience Center of Excellence.

You can download our case study on the project here.
The story from NOLA.com is below (original story here):


3D-printed 'Cajun coral' project aims to boost Louisiana's fish and oyster habitat

Artificial reefs take shape on a sunken island near Port Fourchon

PORT FOURCHON — It looks like a collection of pale cypress knees, was made with a 3D printer and promises to be a magnet for oysters and fish.

The strange-looking artificial reef taking shape in Terrebonne Bay is a new tool that conservation and fishing groups hope will help ease habitat loss along Louisiana’s rapidly eroding coast.

“Our fish keep disappearing because we’ve lost so much habitat over the last 20 years,” Leeville fishing guide Chad Billiot said just before watching a crane hoist the knobby clusters of concrete from a barge and then plop them into the bay eight miles west of Port Fourchon. “This is habitat we desperately need.”

The reefs, called “Cajun corals,” are one of many designs for the hundreds of underwater barriers the state and nonprofit groups have installed along the coast to counter the land-robbing effects of erosion, sea level rise and stronger storms. Some artificial reefs are made with cement balls or pyramids, while others feature recycled oyster shells crammed into stackable cages.

What sets Cajun corals apart is how quickly they can be customized and manufactured for a range of uses and environments, said Tyler Ortego, a coastal engineer with Natrx, a North Carolina design firm that developed the reefs with Gray-based marine construction and maintenance company Danos.

“We’re able to go from a phone call and a design idea to then start printing within hours,” Ortego said.

Each reef module is made by hundreds of needles injecting concrete into a form. Danos makes the Cajun corals at a 5,000-square-foot plant in Amelia, but the setup is so basic that Danos executive Eric Danos believes they could be made at any modest industrial site and possibly on barges one day.

"These really are designed to be manufactured anywhere," he said.

Backed by the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana and the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the reef project near Port Fourchon sits atop a small island that disappeared under the waves in recent years. It’s now under about 6 feet of water, but old fishermen in the area considered the sliver of sand — one of many Louisiana islands called “Pelican Island” — a prime spot to snag redfish and trout, said Rad Trascher, CCA Louisiana’s vice president.

“When you talk to old-timers about Pelican Island, their eyes light up,” he said.

CCA asked Danos to make the reef no taller than 18 inches to avoid scraping the bottoms of boats. The group also wanted the modules to be shaped “with lots of nooks and crannies so organisms can attach themselves,” Trascher said.

As young oysters latch on and grow, the structure they build will function as both a fishery and habitat for other species, including redfish and blue crab. Oysters also function as natural water filters, cleaning the Gulf of excess nitrogen and sediment. And when storms roll in, oyster reefs act as speed bumps, slowing surges before they strike land.

The bay has been losing many of the marshes, inlets and islands that gave it the varied habitats that allow fish to thrive. Redfish used to gather in “fishing holes” amid the varied seascape during winter, Billiot said.

“But now those holes are gone, and we don’t have any fishing during winter,” he said.

The reef is the 49th the CCA has built on the Louisiana coast. Costing about $300,000 and taking about three days to install, the reef will cover around three underwater acres.

It won’t save the bay by itself, but at least one spot will soon be teeming with life, Trascher predicted.

“It’s amazing how fast the marine life finds these things,” he said. “It’ll soon have a plethora of marine species.”

Danos has spent the past 70 years providing services to the oil and gas industry, but the family-owned company has lately broadened its offerings. Cajun coral is a product of the company branching into the coastal restoration field. Danos has installed a handful of Cajun coral reefs, including one that protects a Shell-owned pipeline south of Houma.

“The canal it’s in was in danger from erosion, so we partly closed it up with a new reef,” Danos said. “It was amazing to watch the oysters almost immediately grow and solidify. The results were fantastic.”

There’s no shortage of other pipelines that may need added protection as the coastline unravels.

“Now we’ve just got to get to the other thousand miles of pipeline in south Louisiana,” he said.


Story by Tristan Baurick, Photos by Brett Duke, The Times-Picayune

December 21, 2023

Natrx Amelia Facility in the News

KATC News came out to take a look at our new Resilience Center of Excellence and get the details on what this means for our ability to deploy Adaptive Infrastructure solutions globally. For more detail on the facility, you can read this recent post:

Natrx Establishes a Resilience Center of Excellence with Global Reach in Southern Louisiana

And you can read the whole story at KATC.com:

Nature-based coastal resilience solutions facility opens in Amelia

December 11, 2023

Natrx Establishes a Resilience Center of Excellence with Global Reach in Southern Louisiana


Partnership with Louisiana-based Danos Produces Industrial Scale
Nature-Based Resilience Solutions to Worldwide Challenges

Climate technology company Natrx has officially begun production at a newly established manufacturing facility in Amelia, Louisiana. In partnership with Gulf Coast-based energy services provider, Danos, the 5,000 square foot facility enables large-scale, global deployment of the company’s patented, nature-based resilience technology called DryForming™.

DryForming is the innovative manufacturing process invented by the company’s co-founder and president, Matt Campbell, a Louisiana native and BioAgricultural Engineering graduate of LSU. The patented DryForming process is used to produce the company’s proprietary ExoForms™ — habitat-specific, interlocking module systems designed to improve shoreline resilience and promote biodiversity at landscape scale.

This new resilience center of excellence houses multiple DryForming units capable of producing 50,000 tons of ExoForm™ modules per year with performance equivalent to 500,000 tons of heavy rock, which would typically be purchased out of state. The Amelia facility is located strategically on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway with deep water barge access immediately creating opportunities for large-scale coastal resilience projects across the Gulf Coast and beyond.

In addition to ExoForm production, Natrx will use the facility to build, test, and deploy mobile DryForming units to help address resilience challenges around the world, beginning with an awarded coral restoration project off the coast of Waikiki, Hawaii.

“Louisiana is one of the areas in the country most impacted by coastal erosion, and it is also the birthplace of Natrx,” said Campbell. “It’s where Tyler Ortego, our General Manager for Coastal Solutions, and I met and where we first connected with Danos. The state's coastal erosion crisis, coupled with its commitment to finding breakthrough approaches to addressing these challenges, makes south Louisiana the ideal location for our new facility.

Danos, which has operated in the Gulf Coast region for 76 years, first connected with Natrx in 2019 after the recently launched company was selected for a start-up accelerator program in New Orleans hosted by Shell Energy. The ENERGYx program focused on emerging innovations for coastal construction and water management that improve the capital efficiency of on-the-ground projects.

“Our success depends on partners like Danos that recognize the value and vision of our technology,” said Leonard Nelson, Natrx CEO. “The operation in Louisiana owes much to their support, and having a base close to partners who are invested in our business and our mission will be truly beneficial.”

The companies have collaborated on asset protection and coastal restoration projects for clients across southern Louisiana including Shell, ConocoPhillips, Ducks Unlimited, the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana, and several public entities. Their breakthrough work together led to a significant early investment in Natrx by Danos Ventures and continues to fuel a productive partnership.

“Protecting vital coastlines and waterways in our region is a top priority for our customers and communities,” said Eric Danos, CEO of Danos Ventures. “By partnering with Natrx, we can maximize the adoption of innovative new technologies—delivering jobs and economic value locally and real impact globally.”

November 14, 2023

Natrx Awarded $1 Million Grant by the National Science Foundation

Natrx Awarded $1 Million Grant by the National Science Foundation to Develop Technology for Measuring Carbon Value in Coastal Wetlands

Small Business Innovation Research Program Funds R&D
to Fuel “Blue Carbon Economy”

RALEIGH, N.C. (Nov. 14, 2023) – Leading climate tech company Natrx has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to continue development of its remote-sensing technology designed to quantify the economic value of carbon stock in coastal wetlands. The $1 million award to advance Natrx’s Resilience for Waterfront Infrastructure (REWIRE) platform is also eligible for additional matching funds from NSF that would push the grant total to $1.7 million.

Natrx’s technology and data-driven approach to carbon and biodiversity accounting in wetland ecosystems will lead to the emergence of sustainable new business models. The REWIRE platform will also facilitate private financing of nature-based restoration projects that protect communities and fuel local economies. Natrx’s innovative approach integrates remotely-sensed and field-based data, and applies artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to map coastal erosion rates, blue carbon, and biodiversity at high spatial resolution.

“The REWIRE platform will be a critical tool in appraising the carbon value that exists in coastal areas,” said Leonard Nelson, CEO of Natrx. “We are deeply appreciative of the continued recognition and investment from NSF that will help unlock value that can lead to sustainable, blue carbon economies where they’re needed most.”

In 2021, Natrx was also awarded NSF funding for Phase I of this project. Phase I focused on the development of AI and geospatial software tools for assessing hyper-local, hydrodynamic and erosive conditions at high resolution.

As part of Phase II, the Center for Geospatial Analytics at North Carolina State University will help power the geospatial processing capabilities of the REWIRE approach using the GRASS GIS open-source software. Dr. Vaclav Petras, Research Software Engineer at NC State, will oversee integration of GRASS GIS APIs into REWIRE.

“The collaboration with Natrx allows us to contribute to open-source software development by enhancing the existing tooling, and contribute to open science by making more algorithms readily available,” said Dr. Petras.

All initiatives considered by the NSF for SBIR grants undergo a rigorous merit-based review. The program supports scientific excellence and technological innovation that is moving from the lab to the market.

Most of the world's coastal habitats are vulnerable to erosion which can have wide-ranging negative impacts on local economies. Enhancing shoreline resilience and biodiversity can unlock the value of coastal ecosystems by supporting nature-based infrastructure, sustainable fisheries, tourism, and clean water. These “blue economy” opportunities offer environmental benefits as well as social benefits of economic equity and environmental justice for low-income and underserved communities.

October 26, 2023

Pamlico River Project in the National News

The work we're doing on the Pamlico River with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries was covered today by ABC News. They spent some time with our COO, Tad Schwendler, to understand the project, how our approach works, and what the project aims to achieve. The video they produced as well as the original article are available below.

We're thrilled that our advanced technology approach to delivering nature-based resilience and restoration is getting this kind of national attention. More attention will lead to more consideration of how to address these challenges. And more consideration, from us and from other innovative approaches, will be how we'll be able to make real impact.

(See the original story here at ABC News)


Installation underway of 15 acres of 3D-printed artificial reefs in coastal North Carolina

Several acres of 3D-printed artificial reefs are currently being planted in coastal North Carolina to bolster the region's biodiversity and promote new growth of natural reef.

The reefs, 3-foot concrete cubes called "Exoforms" that contain a lot of void space to allow marine life to thrive, are being planted in the Palmico River, a large estuary system on North Carolina's Atlantic Coast, Tad Schwendler, COO of environmental solutions firm Natrx, told ABC News.

The roughness and irregularities of the structures leaves room for species at the bottom of the food chain, such as algae and other microorganisms, to grow, which then attract the larger species, Schwendler said.

The 15-acre installation is part of a two-year project by the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina and the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries,in Pamlico Sound and its tributaries. The deployment began on Oct. 20 and is expected to be complete by the end of the week.

The reef site will be one of 25 artificial reefs managed by the DMF. In May 2022, a similar artificial reef was deployed upstream, near the mouth of Bath Creek, Schwendler said.

The reefs will promote cleaner water and provide habitat for a variety of marine life, including fish, oysters, mussels, crustaceans and other invertebrates, Schwendler said. Important game fish, such as red drum, bass and speckled trout, are also expected to flock to the location once the reefs are settled and thriving.

Recreational fishing tends to cluster in certain locations in North Carolina, and promoting biodiversity in other parts of the state will allow that activity to spread out, Schwendler said.

"It's better for the ecosystem," he said.

The artificial reefs will also serve as skeletons for natural reefs to grow, Schwendler said. For the natural reefs to recur naturally, they need a substrate to grow upon, Schwendler said.

In recent years, coastal North Carolina has been experiencing environmental issues such as coastal erosion from sea level rise and more development along the coast.

"By creating these artificial reefs, it helps improve the resilience of our coastline, especially since a lot of the natural reefs in the U.S. have been lost over the years," Schwendler said.

The project is a prime example of using technology and natural systems to protect shorelines and make them more resilient, Schwendler said.

Natural systems are the most cost effective and environmentally friendly way to promote biodiversity, Schwendler said.

"These estuarine reef installations represent significant milestones in the use of adaptive infrastructure technology in North Carolina," Leonard Nelson, CEO of Natrx, said in a statement.

In addition to promoting biodiversity, artificial reefs have been found to capture carbon, according to a study published earlier this month by the Friends of the RGV Reef, a Texas-based conservation organization, and the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley.

The two-year study found that sponges and soft corals that cover the RGV Reef, the largest and most complex artificial reef off the Texas coast, do contain high amounts of carbon dioxide "in some significant proportion," the researchers found. Both the reef’s structure, the bottom or sediment, as well as the biomass, fish and other marine life in the water column, is capturing or trapping carbon, the scientists said.

October 23, 2023

Natrx ExoForms™ Featured in Biodiversity Restoration Project

A project that we've been working on in the Pamlico River with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and the North Carolina Coastal Conservation Association was featured on WITN news this past week. We're proud this piece demonstrates how our custom-designed ExoForms™ can be an ideal part of building back biodiversity in coastal waterways, but we're also proud of how this piece demonstrates that it takes positive and productive partnerships to bring these projects to life.

View the original piece with video on WITN here.

Environmental groups have partnered with the state Division of Marine Fisheries to improve one waterway in the east.

By Deric Rush
Published: Oct. 20, 2023 at 5:53 PM CDT

Concrete Exoforms are 3D-printed cement artificial oyster reefs designed by Raleigh-based environmental engineering group Natrx and purchased by the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina.

Once the project is complete officials say the reef site will cover 15 acres of the Pamlico River. It is the second artificial reef deployment.

The reefs are being deployed in an effort to provide refuge for oysters, and important fish species such as red drum, and sheepshead for example.

Environmentalists say it’s important to promote biodiversity and vibrance within the river ecosystem.

“They actually lower those into the water and then you know in the next handful of months invertebrates and other things will start to kind of grow on there we’ll have some moisture settle on there next spring and they’ll be great places to fish you know by next summer,” said Jordan Byrum with NC Division of Marine Fisheries.

“There’s been years and years of decline in our fisheries here in North Carolina and I think habitat projects like this are essential so this is one of those steps that that we can take you know using partnerships like this with Natrx that we can actually have an impact on today,” added Matthew Wallin with Coastal Conservation Association.

The department says they plan to have the reefs deployed by the end of the month.

Copyright 2023 WITN. All rights reserved.

October 11, 2023

Natrx Raises Over $3.5 Million In Seed Funding Round

Climate Technology Company Raises Over $3.5 Million to Accelerate Global Deployment of its Nature-Based Infrastructure Solutions

RALEIGH, N.C. (October 11, 2023) – Raleigh-based climate technology company Natrx, the industry leader in nature-based infrastructure technologies, announced today that it has raised over $3.5 million in its oversubscribed Seed funding round led by Ponderosa Ventures and Oval Park Capital. This raise brings its total funding to date to more than $5.2 million. Ponderosa is an early-stage food, agriculture, and ocean-focused venture firm affiliated with Galvanize Climate Solutions, a global, climate-focused investment firm. Oval Park invests in non-FDA-regulated disruptive and impactful technology startups primarily in the Southeastern United States.

Other participating investors include Fulcrum Financial Partners, which focuses on technical innovations that benefit humanity, Silverstrand Capital, which catalyzes biodiversity-positive impact through strategic investments, and TITAN Cement, an international building and infrastructure materials business focused on sustainability and carbon reduction.

Natrx delivers technologies for coastal resilience, adaptation, and restoration. The company’s platform is built around three interconnected capabilities:  Assess, Address, and Appraise. Assess utilizes artificial intelligence to identify coastal risks, Address solves these problems with custom-designed and manufactured, nature-compatible structures, and Appraise quantifies the financial and ecological benefits of completed projects. Natrx has deployed coastal, watershed, and deepwater projects across the U.S. with clients including ports, energy firms, the public sector, and major conservation organizations.

“Rising seas and increased storm intensity already plague coastal communities. Natrx offers a much needed solution to protect homes, communities, and infrastructure more cost-effectively and in collaboration with biodiversity, leading to significantly better outcomes,” said Ponderosa co-founder and lead investor Evi Steyer. “With coastal climate risk affecting over half the world’s population, Natrx is positioned for long-term growth and commercial success.”

The capital investment will enable Natrx to continue to scale its patented Dry FormingTM advanced manufacturing technology to meet increasing global demand. With new production units coming online in Louisiana and Hawaii, the company will accelerate distribution of its biogenic infrastructure solutions.

Co-founded by serial entrepreneur Leonard Nelson (CEO) and coastal engineer Matt Campbell (President), the company has five issued patents for its nature-based technologies, including its Dry FormingTM advanced manufacturing process. The Dry FormingTM process was invented by Campbell, a BioAgricultural and Coastal Engineer with a Ph.D. from NC State. Prior to founding Natrx, Campbell successfully commercialized innovative nature-based solutions in use by multiple private enterprises and federal, state, and local agencies.

“Our investors recognize the potential of Natrx solutions to create meaningful impact at scale,” said Campbell. “Our technology-first approach to improving balance between the built environment and the natural world is commercially competitive and delivers measurable economic, social, and environmental benefits.”




Natrx applies its proprietary, nature-based technologies to address coastal resilience, habitat restoration, and asset protection challenges. The company’s solutions promote balance between the natural and built worlds to deliver a new standard for sustainable resilience and positive economic impact. Natrx solutions are designed for the performance requirements of large-scale public and private asset owners and are recognized for delivering real-world results. For more information, visit: www.natrx.io.

About Ponderosa Ventures

Ponderosa Ventures invests in pre-seed and seed stage companies working to transform the food, agriculture, and oceans sectors. They invest globally, with a focus on the US and Europe. Ponderosa is a member of Galvanize Climate Solutions, a climate-focused global investment firm delivering capital and integrated expertise to accelerate climate solutions and create long-term value for investors.

For more information, visit: www.ponderosavc.com and www.galvanizeclimate.com.

About Oval Park Capital

Oval Park Capital is an early-stage venture capital firm based in Raleigh, NC that serves as a trusted bridge between high potential technology startups in undercapitalized regions and larger investors in mature and well-capitalized startup ecosystems. Oval Park partners with exceptional and diverse founders using novel, disruptive, and protectable technologies to solve complex and costly global problems. For more information, visit: www.ovalpark.com.

About Fulcrum Financial Partners

Fulcrum Financial Partners has been investing in startups in the Raleigh-Durham area since 2007. Their mission is to help entrepreneurs bring products and services to market that enhance people’s quality of life and help make the world a better place. The firm is always looking for companies that are technically innovative and create useful products or services that are beneficial to humanity at large.

For more information visit: www.fulcrumfp.com.

About Silverstrand Capital

Silverstrand Capital is a Singapore-based investment firm with an impact investment mandate to catalyze biodiversity-positive impact. Its mission is to accelerate the widescale restoration and conservation of ecological health and biodiversity on land and sea. Its global portfolio of startups and funds spans a wide range of sectors, including regenerative agriculture, sustainable aquaculture, and nature-based solutions. For more information, visit: www.silverstrand.capital.


Titan America, LLC (www.titanamerica.com) and its family of companies are leading heavy building materials producers in the Eastern United States. Titan America is headquartered in Norfolk, VA and its subsidiary companies produce cement, aggregates, ready mixed concrete, concrete block, and beneficiated fly ash. Titan America is a member of TITAN Cement Group, an international cement and building materials producer. The Group employs more than 5,000 people and operates in 25+ countries. Throughout its 120-year history, it has aspired to serve the needs of society, while contributing to sustainable growth with responsibility and integrity. For more information, visit: www.titan-cement.com.

August 29, 2023

Tyler Ortego Joins Natrx as GM of Coastal Solutions

We're thrilled to announce the addition of Tyler Ortego as our GM of Coastal Solutions. Tyler adds an invaluable level of expertise and experience in real-world implementations of coastal and biological engineering solutions. The original news item is below:


Raleigh-based climate technology company Natrx, the industry leader in adaptive infrastructure, has appointed Tyler Ortego as General Manager of Coastal Solutions.

Ortego is a co-founder of Natrx, which specializes in advanced, high-performance technologies that power the development of nature-based environmental resilience systems. As a member of the company’s senior executive team, Ortego contributes extensive industry knowledge and field construction expertise to large-scale solutions designed to protect climate-exposed assets. Being based in the New Orleans area, Ortego will provide a senior leadership presence in the Southern Louisiana/Gulf Coast region where coastal resilience solutions are critical and where Natrx has several projects currently in progress.

Recognized as a leading authority in coastal resilience engineering, Ortego is a charter board member of the Louisiana Chapter of COPRI (Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers Institute) where he served as chair. His professional career has been dedicated to creating sustainable, complementary relationships between natural ecosystems and coastal infrastructure. 

“Tyler is a distinguished engineer known for his commitment to harnessing the power of nature to enhance coastal resilience,” said Natrx president Matt Campbell. “His visionary approach helped establish Natrx as a global innovator that is able to deliver solutions at industrial scale around the world.”

Ortego earned his undergraduate and masters degrees in Biological Engineering at Louisiana State University, where he conducted groundbreaking research focused on optimizing concrete structures to facilitate oyster growth. Inspired by the impact of Hurricane Katrina on coastal Louisiana, his work on a modular, oyster-growing shoreline protection system was the genesis for the climate resilience technology company he co-founded with Campbell. The company was branded as Natrx in 2018.

“Our technologies enable us to create adaptive coastal infrastructure that works together with the natural ecosystem,” said Ortego. “Our mission is to create nature-based solutions that deliver both environmental and economic benefits to coastal communities so they can thrive for generations.” 

Ortego actively contributes to the technical standards for Additive Manufacturing in Construction and Sustainability committees established by ASTM International, the leading industry organization.

April 24, 2023

$9M grant aims to restore Waikīkī reefs with coral nurseries

A coral reef restoration project off iconic Waikīkī Beach has been recommended for a $9 million grant by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAAOffice of Habitat Conservation.

The REEFrame project is a partnership by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Conservation International, the Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources, the ocean technology firm Natrx, the ocean engineering firm Oceanit, and workforce development nonprofit ClimbHI. The project will run from summer 2023 to mid-2026.

Preliminary visualization of a portion of a REEFrame permanent coral nursery immediately after deployment. Each 3D concrete printed module measures about one cubic yard. (Image credit: Natrx)

“Many reefs in the region are now so degraded that there is little living coral, collapsing to the point where they no longer provide shelter for fish,” said the REEFrame science lead Mark Hixon from UH Mānoa’s School of Life Sciences. “Unfortunately, many reefs around Oʻahu and other highly populated Hawaiian Islands now have few parrotfish and other seaweed eaters. Our reefs are in danger of being lost to ocean warming unless we help them recover with these interventions.”

“We are honored to work with the people of Hawaiʻi on this innovative and inclusive approach to restoring our precious coral reefs,” said Matt Ramsey, senior director of Conservation International Hawaiʻi. “We need to do everything we can to ensure that our present and future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy the many benefits of healthy and thriving coral reefs.”

This initiative is one of nearly 150 projects across 30 coastal and Great Lakes states and territories that were recommended to receive a total of $562 million. Vice President Kamala Harris made the announcement on April 21. These investments are an effort to make communities and the economy more resilient to climate change, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America agenda. The awards are made under NOAA’s Climate-Ready Coasts Initiative and are funded by the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and bolstered by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Project details

Planning and working with local stakeholders and pending numerous permits, the team is proposing to build two permanent coral nurseries—each about 100 feet by 100 feet and about 6 feet tall—on a bare rock seafloor in about 55 feet of water about ¾ mile off Waikīkī Beach. Construction could begin by 2025 after specific plans, environmental studies and permits are finalized. Made of stacked 3D-printed concrete modules in organic shapes with many holes and overhangs for fishes and other sea life, the nurseries are intended to serve two purposes:

  • “Corals of opportunity,” which are living coral colonies dislodged by storms, ship groundings, anchor drags or other disturbances, will be attached to the structures for temporary keeping until they are later transplanted to areas lacking coral. The process is similar to transplanting nursery trees after a forest fire, helping to restore the forest.
  • By attracting fish, especially parrotfish (uhu) and other seaweed eaters that keep reef surfaces clean so corals can flourish, the complex structure of the nurseries will gradually be colonized by naturally settling coral larvae, eventually becoming coral reefs in their own right. A preliminary experimental study off Waikīkī by Hixon and his lab demonstrated the feasibility of this approach.

Close-up preliminary visualization of 3D printed concrete modules with corals-of-opportunity mounted on attachment points, as well as colonizing species beneficial to corals, including trapezia crabs that defend coral from predators (lower left), surgeonfishes and sea urchins that control seaweeds, and various fishes known to fertilize corals with their feces. (Image credit: Natrx and UH Mānoa)

“Essentially, the project will assist the natural process of coral regrowth by providing the structural framework that is needed for a healthy reef ecosystem. This is why we call the project REEFrame,” said coastal engineer Mike Foley of Oceanit.

“The three-dimensional framework of the nurseries will attract fish and corals, eventually becoming productive fishing reefs in their own right,” added Matt Campbell of Natrx.

Project outreach

The team will consult with local and cultural organizations during the design phase of the project, learning from ocean users, incorporating historical Indigenous practices where appropriate, and educating the public about the goals of and science and engineering behind the project. The team recognizes the cultural, economic and biological value of the Waikīkī region, and aims to minimize any impacts in helping to restore this valuable resource.

ClimbHI will help connect project organizers with schools statewide to provide opportunities for student and educator involvement, as well as partnerships with various industries.

“REEFrame offers a way for our keiki to gain valuable hands-on experience with leading environmental organizations and businesses,” said Julie Morikawa, president of ClimbHI. “We look forward to building widespread participation with this project from our local communities.”

The Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) will facilitate the permitting process for the project.

“This project is a positive step towards habitat restoration for the fisheries of our islands,” said Brian Neilson, DAR Administrator.

As climate change continues to warm the oceans, coral bleaching—where heat waves cause corals to turn white and often die—is becoming more common in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere. When corals die, they are soon covered by seaweeds unless abundant uhu and other fish eat them, freeing space for new corals to grow. Corals are like the trees of a forest, providing habitat for many species. No coral means no reef, no fisheries, no natural breakwaters, and no sustainable sources of new beach sand that reduces coastal erosion as sea levels continue to rise.

NOAA is excited to be supporting our partners’ innovative efforts to restore coral reefs off the coast of Waikīkī Beach,” said Carrie Selberg Robinson, director of NOAA‘s Office of Habitat Conservation. “Coral reefs provide countless benefits for fisheries and coastal communities, and reef restoration projects are crucial for preserving the future of these important habitats.”

For general questions, email info@reeframehi.org.

October 24, 2022

Natrx ExoForms Featured on PBS North Carolina

We're thrilled to have had our ExoForms and our patented forming process featured on PBS North Carolina's show Sci NC.

In this piece you'll get an overview of our 3D forming process. Unlike traditional methods that make use of "materials of convenience" like recycled pipes, concrete, or even old ships, our process uses a minimal amount of material in the creation of our naturalistically-shaped, coastal protection modules. And unlike any recycled or traditional materials that have been in common use, our ExoForms are designed specifically for the sites where they are used to break up wave energy and provide safe, beneficial habitats for local aquatic life.

Give it a watch for a closer look at how our innovative 3D forming process is creating new opportunities for coastal protection and ecosystem resilience. And thank you, PBS NC!

You can get more detail on our Natrx ExoForms here: Natrx ExoForms Tech Overview

And you can view the whole episode and more in the series here at PBS NC.


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