A voyage of discovery along the most explosive colours and interesting underwater animals; coral reefs are every diving enthusiast’s wet dream. And also the home of at least 25% of all known marine life. Unfortunately, coral reefs around the world are in a state of emergency due to constantly rising temperatures. Also affecting the coastal areas near these coral reefs.

We spoke with Daniel Dacomba, co-founder of Reefy, who is eager to find a solution with his startup.

Hey Daniel, congratulations on making it to last year’s final of the CleanTech Challenge with your startup Reefy! Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Reefy’?

   At Reefy we are developing lego-like blocks that can be assembled to form underwater artificial reef structures. This modular underwater infrastructure boosts marine biodiversity, since it gives natural reefs halt to grow. It also functions as a nature-enhancing breakwater, which diminishes the wave energy to reduce coastal flooding and erosion.
So in short: It’s a stable solution that serves as a coastal protection solution and at the same time can boost marine biodiversity.

Sounds very interesting. What are the blocks made of?

     We offer three options. Depending on the needs and preferences of the client we use either wood or biopolymers with an eco binder. The third option is steel with a low voltage current in order to form a protective calcium carbonate layer that boosts the growth of natural reefs or oysters on it.

Protecting coral reefs and reducing erosion in coastal areas is definitely very relevant, with climate change drastically affecting coastal ecosystems. What parties are interested in your product?

    We are working with a broad range of clients, including engineering firms, resorts, ports and NGO’s. The blocks are highly customizable so we work with both smaller and bigger clients.

At what stage is Reefy right now and what are the next steps?

   We founded Reefy in 2019 and are therefore still an early-stage startup in the product development phase. Right now we are conducting experiments at Deltares in order to optimize our product in terms of for instance robustness. We actually have cool news! Recently, we signed pilot projects in Indonesia and the Mexican Caribbean, which we will monitor extensively to see how our product works on a big scale. Our next steps are improving the product based on the collected data from the pilots, upscaling and at the end being ready to sell.

How did the Challenge help you in developing your startup ideas?

   The CleanTech Challenge made us think more about the business model and funding possibilities. Also if you already have quite a good business model, the challenge makes you think it over again and thus improve it. The different experts that you meet during the challenge support you in this process. They are really keen to help and can possibly give you insider tips. Being in a community with other startups is really inspiring and helps you to move forward!

You also became 2nd in the finals of the global CleanTech Challenge. What was your experience on taking part in the global finals?

   For the global finals we had to do a pitch that included certain questions, like ‘what are your key high potencies and what is the next minimal viable product?’. These questions gave us very useful insights on the business part of our startup. Being a team consisting of two engineers, both the national and global challenge helped to educate ourselves outside our own field of study. We realized the importance of taking the business aspects of a startup into consideration.

What do you like the most about being an entrepreneur in the field of cleantech?

   My co-founder Jaime and I are both civil engineers and real nature enthusiasts. It’s really cool to apply our study to build something we are passionate about. We started by asking ourselves ‘How can we make a difference?’. The rapid decline in global marine biodiversity and the human impact on the marine ecosystem in general are developments that concern us and sparked our interest to find a solution. With Reefy we are attempting to do exactly that! Even if we get only one reef restored, for us it will mean the world. Also for entrepreneurship you have to be confident with uncertainties.

What would you like to say to this year’s participants?

   I recommend getting in contact with as many people as possible in order to keep validating your solution. The CleanTech Challenge is a nice environment for this. Also make sure to have a solid value proposition. In general, it can be very useful to have a mentor who can give you some coaching. Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the challenge since it’s a great event, you’ll meet nice people and it’s really cool to see how your startup develops over time.