The blue economy entrepreneurs

07/11/2019 - 10:20

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Entrepreneurs across Australia are dipping a toe in new waters as the term ‘blue economy’ surges into the business world.

Responding to ocean pollution is a worldwide priority. Photo: Stockphoto

With its vast coastline, WA is the ideal location for some of the world’s most entrepreneurial solutions to ocean health and accessibility.

Entrepreneurs across Australia are dipping a toe in new waters as the term ‘blue economy’ surges into the business world.

The term refers to the sustainable use of the ocean and its resources, economic activity in the maritime and defence sectors, as well as emerging innovations in areas such as renewable energy, aquaculture and biotechnology.

The industry was valued at $US1.5 trillion per annum and created the equivalent of 31 million full-time jobs globally in 2010, according to the OECD.

Madhushree Chatterjee, chief of the Natural Resources and Interlinkages branch at the UN Department of Economic & Social Affairs, reported that: “Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, medicines and even the oxygen we breathe, are all provided and regulated by the sea”.

She continued to highlight that oceans also provide convenient transport routes for food, fuel, construction materials, chemicals and household items.

Additionally, the UN estimates the cumulative economic impact of poor ocean management practices to be at least $US200 billion per year.

The world’s oceans are home to the largest ecosystems on earth, are the leading food source for billions of people and are fundamental to the economic security of most countries.

There is, therefore, an abundance of drivers and opportunities for businesses to play in this space.

Wave energy

Albany has one of the most consistent wave energy resources in the world, and was anticipated to become the home of a renewable energy revolution just a few years ago with the Carnegie CETO 6 project.

The bold proposition was to produce zero-emission power and desalinated water.

The project has since been axed, after Carnegie Clean Energy failed to meet the first deadline and was deemed unable to successfully complete it.

Many have dubbed the project a failure based on a lack of commercial viability and a weak business model.

Premier Mark McGowan defended the government’s participation in an interview with ABC Radio, stating he suspects that wave energy will be a big part of the energy mix in the future and he would like to see Western Australia at the forefront of that.

CSIRO conducted a study on the potential of wave power and the results back up Mr McGowan’s sentiments.

It found that the technology could contribute up to 11 per cent of Australia’s energy by 2050 (or enough to power a big city like Melbourne). It also showed that the southern coastline of Australia is a consistent and ideal source of wave energy production.

With upwards of 200 wave energy devices reported to be in research and development stages, a viable solution may be closer than we think.

Oceanth Generation

Space Hub Perth and CORE Innovation Hub hosted this year’s Space Apps Challenge on October 19 and 20.

The international hackathon has teams use NASA’s free and open source data to solve real world problems in space and on earth.

Oceanth Generation is one of two Perth groups named Global Nominees in the hackathon – an award recognising outstanding projects in each city.

The team consists of Emily Duan, Marco Argiolas, Makan Edrisi Sormoli and Lawrence Lo.

Oceanth Generation designed a low-cost method of delivering internet services to people located far out in the ocean based on NASA’s Disruptive Tolerant Networking (DTN) technology.

The idea is to provide intermittent internet coverage by using existing technology and applying it to the oceanic network.

The benefits of this include everything from accelerating communication of companies with offshore operations and  providing connectivity for scientific research in remote areas, to being able to quickly activate internet connections for civilians in natural disaster situations.

Oceanth Generation’s Ms Duan says the team is currently working on a video demonstration of its solution, and are aiming to win the global award.

Seabin

Seabin is an ocean cleaning invention created by Perth surfers Andrew Turton (boat builder and sailor) and Pete Ceglinski (industrial designer).

Their rubbish, debris and oil-catching device garnered attention back in 2015 with the launch of their crowdfunding campaign raising $391,000. One Seabin has the capability to capture 90,000 plastic bags, 35,700 disposable cups, 16,500 plastic bottles and 166,500 plastic utensils a year.

According to the company’s website, there are now 860 Seabins installed around the world.

The City of Cockburn was Perth’s first council to buy one, locating it at the Port Coogee marina.

Marina manager Samantha Standish says the bin is emptied daily, with the findings analysed and recorded to identify the different types of debris.

She calls it “the worst treasure hunt ever”.

Having removed 283,359kg of rubbish to date out of the ocean, Seabin is making admirable progress towards reducing pollution.

If you’re keen to learn more about the blue economy, WA company We Are Arising will be releasing a report called ‘For Blue’ in Fremantle this December.

Through interviews, research and analysis, ‘For Blue’ identifies potential opportunities tied to our oceans. It is also set to be a topic of discussion at the Rotto Tech Fest held on Rottnest Island on December 6, 2019.

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