Gator Halpern, UN Environment’s 2018 Young Champion of the Earth for Latin America and the Caribbean, is working with his company Coral Vita to build the world’s first commercial land-based coral farm, in The Bahamas.
Coral Vita’s approach differs from most coral restoration projects in that it uses land-based coral nurseries, rather than ocean-based nurseries. The Coral Vita process uses microfragmenting to accelerate coral growth up to 50 times natural rates. As a result even slow-growing corals (like brain corals) can be cultivated in months instead of years, at a rate of growth that is not feasible in ocean-based coral nurseries.
The ability to control the growth environment in land-based farms means that Coral Vita can apply assisted evolution techniques, raising corals to be more resilient to the warming temperatures and ocean acidification that result from climate change.
Coral Vita’s vision is commercial coral restoration on “unprecedented scales”. Halpern says:
The technology we use grows basketball-sized corals in just one year. Our land-based farms allow us to grow millions of corals at a single site, accelerating growth for a wider range of coral species than traditional coral farming can. We can also acclimatize corals to warmer and more acidic oceans that threaten their survival, so they are more resilient when back in the ocean.
We believe that a market-driven industry is the only way to tackle the enormous scale of reef degradation. Our global community – including governments, coastal developers, banks and insurance companies – must invest in large-scale restoration
Coral Vita’s coral farm in Freeport Grand Bahama is currently under construction. Initially, it will be able to grow about 3,000 corals per year, with room for expansion. The facility is also intended to serve as an eco-tourism attraction and environmental education centre.