In 2015, James Doddrell and Tom Birbeck set up ARC Marine, - the first eco-engineering company in the UK specialising in artificial reefs.
Breaking the mould
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.”
Reef Cubes are the patented invention created by ARC Marine. It is a robust and simple interlocking modular system that is ideal for restoring complex marine environments.
ARC Marine have been supported by COAST Lab at the University of Plymouth, one of the partners in the Marine-i project.
Tom says: “We are currently undergoing a series of trials prior to commercial launch in Spring 2019.
“In order to break into significant global markets such as offshore renewables, we need to be able to provide proof that our product will be reliable under all kinds of ocean conditions. At COAST Lab, we have been able to test our product in relation to a range of variables such as currents and water depths. COAST Lab mimics a real- life ocean environment at scale. It really is an incredible resource to have within the South West. If we had not been able to use COAST Lab for product testing, we would have had to travel to Amsterdam to find a comparable facility to meet our needs. As a young small company based in Cornwall, it is fantastic to be able to access these facilities on our doorstep and COAST Lab is providing us with the evidence we need to be able to approach demanding global clients with confidence.”
Tom continues: “As well as the superb testing facilities, we have been overwhelmed by the helpfulness and the quality of the advice from the researchers and lecturers at University of Plymouth.For example, Business Research Fellow Carlos Perez Collazo planned and assisted with our testing programme and his contribution has been invaluable. Indeed, all the University staff we encountered have been a fount of knowledge and advice, readily sharing ideas and making suggestions, as well as passing on valuable international leads from their own networks. The whole experience of working with University of Plymouth and COAST Lab has been extremely positive. It is proving to be a valuable catalyst in helping us along our journey towards commercialisation.”
After trials in Lyme Bay, Brixham and at a freshwater ark site. ARC Marine is now poised for its fourth trial (in Plymouth Marine Station) prior to a full open seas trial. All being well, this will then lead on to commercial launch in Spring 2019 including a collaborative project in the Caribbean and an eco-hotel in Dubai.
Tom says: “As well as the vital role COAST Lab plays for us, we have benefited from the wide range of knowledge and expertise shared in the Marine-i Discovery Room events. These have been a great way of keeping our ear to the ground and the insights we have gained have helped shape our future plans. The Marine-I project is really helping accelerate our company’s growth.”