Australian biotechnology company Pacific Bio uses its cutting-edge RegenAqua technology to harness the detoxifying power of algae to remove pollutants (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) from wastewater in marine and freshwater environments. The circular process creates nutrient-rich products, such as PlantJuice (a powerful biostimulant for farmers that helps plants establish quicker and resist stress), and a GM-free animal feed – meaning that the model has the potential to address issues around water purity, food security and sustainability. Pacific Bio operates RegenAqua technology at its aquaculture facility to responsibly farm black tiger prawns, ensuring the removal of harmful nutrients from wastewater created in the farming process before it enters the Great Barrier Reef catchment, protecting one of Australia’s most precious assets.
At the nexus of technology and the environment is Indian social enterprise Takachar, which has championed a concept known as “oxygen-lean torrefaction” that reduces carbon emissions while turning waste into sellable products. By hitching a ride on the back of a tractor, the low-cost technology converts crop and farm residue into fertiliser and fuel so that farmers don’t wind up burning this agricultural waste out in the open, where it releases an enormous amount of carbon emissions, causes wildfires and dramatically impacts the life expectancy of locals. Once transformed into useful products, this biomass represents a $10 billion market and a 40 percent increase in the potential income of rural communities.
Based in the Bahamas, Coral Vita is a coral “out-planting” initiative in which coral from degraded reefs is restored in a land-based farm, where it is said to be able to recover and grow at a rate 50 times faster than it would if left in its natural environment. Corals are made more resilient in the process, and then replanted in their original habitat to imbue the reef with life (or, vita). The farms triple as centres for marine education and ecotourism. In turn, the project helps protect and sustain the coastal communities where Coral Vita operates. One farm can restore millions of corals, and the bulk of profits are reinvested in coral restoration.
The Wind Hunter
The Wind Hunter is one of the first of its kind: a cargo ship powered solely by sails (around 12 of them) and underwater turbines. It has been developed as an experiment in how we can mitigate the large amount of carbon emissions released by the shipping industry (which contributes three percent of global emissions). The ship uses a blend of old and new technologies: the underwater turbines generate electricity so the vessel can operate without relying on wind. A handful of test sailings have been conducted in 2021; the next phase is to test the technology on a 60-metre vessel. The group’s mission is to see the entire shipping industry become zero-emission as soon as possible.
The work of Greening Australia covers a fair amount of terrain (literally and figuratively) across Australia: reef aid; reforestation; rewilding urban areas; and partnering with First Nations knowledge-holders in conservation. Among their many important projects is wetland restoration. Wetlands are often overlooked in landcare but are enormously important in storing carbon, encouraging biodiversity, stabilising the climate and keeping waterways clean. They play a vital role in safeguarding reef health and in supporting vulnerable species such as fish, birds and turtles. Wetlands across the country have been damaged by modern farming and fire practices, and Greening Australia works alongside traditional owners to revise some of these practices, reduce pollutants and remove invasive plant species.
Each year, up to 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen slips off our skin and into oceans and waterways, where it contributes to coral bleaching and damages marine life (this is why Hawaii and Palau have both banned toxic sunscreens in the last couple of years). SunButter, which has been developed by a pair of marine biologists, is Australia’s first plastic-free, reef-safe sunscreen. Rather than using chemicals, it contains non-nanosized zinc (meaning it’s free of microplastics), which acts as a physical barrier against the sun. The sunscreen is also palm oil free, packaged in a reusable aluminium tin and manufactured locally in a solar-powered factory.