Although many perceive Hong Kong to be a concrete jungle, it is home to one of Asia’s most biodiverse cities and boasts more hard coral species than the Caribbean. These corals are however under threat from pollution and constant urban development.
ArchiREEF, a company from Hong Kong University, says it may have a solution: 3D-printed terracotta tiles designed to help corals grow and restore ocean life.
ArchiREEF was co-founded in 2020 by marine biology professor David Baker and Ph.D. student Vriko Yu, the company aspires to help make corals “more resilient” against climate change.
As per the startup archiREEF, in Hong Kong, technology to regrow coral can help “reset the clock.”
Baker and Yu have been attempting to restore coral at Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park since 2016 in partnership with the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD).
Hoi Ha Wan, which is now a protected coastal reserve, in the north of Hong Kong, was in the past a site of coral mining for construction materials. This caused a major barrier to restoration, says Baker as “the hard bottom of the seafloor has been mined away,” leaving nothing but sand and rubble.
It required a need to create a new “bottom” for the corals to grow on. Working closely with the university’s architecture department, they began creating an artificial coral reef using the university’s 3D printing facility. The 3D printing technology offers endless customization, which the architects at Hong Kong University say aided them to create more space for the corals to grow as well as can combat specific environmental problems with a custom design.