Can Technology Save the Ocean?

Published on April 10, 2020

Can Technology Save the Ocean? It’s a provocative question and one with many answers

I recently hosted a virtual conversation with three ocean tech entrepreneurs who are looking to deploy their technologies to help tackle some of the biggest issues the ocean is facing.

I was joined by Andrew Dudley, Cofounder, and CEO of EarthPBC, Sampriti Baccharya, Founder and CEO of ONET, and Mark Dahm, CEO of SmartCatch to discuss how their technologies have the power to positively impact ocean health.

The Ocean Calling

The ocean is a source of inspiration to many, so it’s always interesting to learn the WHY behind entrepreneurs’ chosen paths, especially when it comes to technology for a higher purpose, such as saving the ocean. 

For Sampriti, it was her passion for space and solving tough challenges that led to a realization of how little we know about the ocean vs what we know about space and the surface of Mars. She started building underwater ocean drones while pursuing her PhD at MIT, with a plan to build a swarm of drones and become the google maps of the ocean.

Andrew started out as a climate activist otherwise known as Jungle Bird where he disturbed large sporting events with a birdcall to draw attention to global issues such as deforestation and global warming.

Mark worked many years in tech and the space industry and ultimately came around to building ocean sensors for the intelligence community. As a lifetime mariner, with SmartCatch, he was able to interconnect his passions for the ocean, tech, and seafood. 

The Ocean in the Time of Corona

While the current news cycle filled with is nothing but endless COVID articles, it may seem hard to think about anything else, yet the dangers the ocean faces in terms of warming, acidification, overfishing, plastic and more haven’t gone away. That’s why it’s more important than ever to shine a light on those innovations that have the power to create positive ocean impact.

Mark Dahm of SmartCatch points out that food security which is closely linked to the current pandemic is something that will become more important for our future. Being able to trace the point of origin, tracking of overfishing and illegal fishing activity and biosecurity are important problems that SmartCatch is solving. Its smart fishing net and software helps fisherman reduce bycatch, stick to guidelines of fishing haul and also puts the power in their hands to monetize their data. He envisions a future where seafood will be traced back through the entire supply chain to its point of origin and on the blockchain.

Sampriti points out that what is needed now more than ever is to build resiliency and be prepared for what may come, whether that’s storms,  sea-level rise or warming waters. That kind of insight can only come with data.

In order to fix a system, you have to understand it, to understand a system, you need information about it.

That’s why with ONET, she is deploying technology infrastructure that will enable data exchanges where they were once not possible, through network edge computing breakthroughs. 

Andrew Dudley of Earth PBC is putting the power back in the hands of local fishermen to report on the pervasive and illegal fishing activity that is disturbing their local waters and livelihoods.  Having successfully piloted Marine+ in the Philippines, he’s looking to expand coverage to other fishing communities around the world and track the reports of illegal fishing boats back to the local authorities. 

I am continuously inspired by the innovation, creativity, and commitment that ocean tech entrepreneurs display and I look forward to many more discussions around this important topic. It was a wonderful conversation, you can watch the replay here!

Sandra Ponce de Leon is a Columnist at Grit Daily. She is a veteran start-up executive who has launched and supported companies through several successful exits. She has a broad marketing background that crosses consumer and business markets. As a tech passionista, she has a focus on blue-tech and also covers topics such as blockchain,  SaaS, health-tech, mobile, iOT and AI. She is a startup adviser and outsourced CMO that leads corporate marketing activities to fuel growth. Sandra's long history in Silicon Valley has enabled her to forge friendships and business relationships with the industry's top tech leaders and influencers which inform much of her extensive body of work including the Popping the Bubbl podcast, and contributing to #LatinaGeeks where she actively writes about emerging tech trends.

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