A pioneering system for building artificial reefs has received a Rapid Innovation Grant from Marine-i. Developed by ARC Marine and called Reef Cubes, this patented invention is a robust and simple interlocking modular system that is ideal for restoring complex marine environments. One of its most important roles is to help protect vulnerable fish stocks and other marine species whose habitats are at risk.

Tom Birbeck, Director of ARC Marine, explains:

Much of our world’s fisheries are now over exploited. Unless the current situation improves, there is a real danger that stocks of all the species that we rely on for food could collapse within 30 years. Our reefs can protect the aquaculture which many of these precious species rely on. These include scallops, crabs, lobsters and shoal fish – all very important commercial species.

Artificial reef

Professor Lars Johanning of the University of Exeter, who leads the Marine-i team, says:

ARC Marine have developed an excellent strategy and business plan for their technology. This is a product that has applications around the world and is rich in opportunity. ARC Marine’s Rapid Innovation Grant of £2,000 will enable them to purchase the diving equipment they need to carry out extended mooring and installation trials in preparation for a full commercial launch.

Tom Birbeck adds:

With the excellent help and support of the Marine-i team, we have ambitions to become the industry leaders in marine eco-engineering and conservation projects, operating from our base at Penryn in Cornwall. In addition to the grant support, we have received outstanding advice and insights from the Marine-i experts and their associates. For a young company like ours, that is simply invaluable.

The Technology

The Reef Cubes use a new group of Portland replacement cements which are low-carbon alternatives based on a geopolymer binding system. ARC Marine claim their process uses up to 70% less CO2 emissions and have 60% less environmental impact compared to traditional methods of concrete production.

About ARC Marine

In 2015, James Doddrell and Tom Birbeck set up ARC Marine, – the first eco-engineering company in the UK specialising in artificial reefs. Tom says: “The only other companies operating in this field in the UK were using old technology and standard concrete. We wanted to create an innovative flexible artificial reef that broke the mould. Initially, we wanted to create an artificial reef that divers could enjoy in Torbay and that would enhance marine conservation zones in the UK. However, as we developed our Reef Cubes product, we quickly saw the global potential. There are only a handful of companies delivering comparable products anywhere in the world, so this really is an exciting area, rich in opportunity.

About Marine-i

Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Marine-i is a £9.3m collaboration between the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, The Cornwall College Group, Cornwall Marine Network, Cornwall Development Company and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. It brings together key infrastructure and expertise to enable technology innovation in the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly’s marine sector


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