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Collectively, there is no doubt that we can scale the solutions that will reverse climate change and marine degradation. To do this, we need a cultural shift toward one climate ecosystem where scientists, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and foundations co-create a participative, inclusive, and regenerative agenda for the many – not the few. Miami-Dade is answering that call.

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By Greg Clark, Good Miami Project

"Now that we know the climate community is here, that's already a big win for South Florida," says Daniel Kleinman, the founder of Seaworthy Collective and a blue tech entrepreneur. Four years ago, he returned to Miami to build a community with more room for ocean enthusiasts and climate impact innovators – including himself.


"I lived in Boston and San Diego to pursue my work in marine robotics, returning home to South Florida to start my own company as there weren't opportunities to participate in ocean innovation work locally. To build this pathway for myself and others, Seaworthy Collective takes a holistic, bottom-up approach where community is central," says Daniel.


"This work involves multiple layers of systems change, but it ultimately begins with building a community that reflects the diversity of people and disciplines required to drive interdisciplinary collaboration and technology forward."


Seaworthy's Startup Showcase | Photo Courtesy of Seaworthy Collective

Left to right: Doug Scribner, Investor; Yadira Diaz of Gradible; Tamara Kahn of Seaworthy Collective; Blayne Ross of Shorelock; Daniel Kleinman of Seaworthy Collective, Troy Scott of Shorelock; Neesha Mirchandani of Impact Stars; Johanan Dujon of Algas Organics

In recent years, Daniel and his team (who began as volunteers) have made the ocean innovation space more inclusive; it’s not just exclusively accessible to individuals with science degrees. Whether through their Miami Climate Community Social Hours or cohorts of ocean and climate impact startup founders known as Sea Change Makers, local enthusiasts and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and disciplines stepped into the ocean of opportunities to connect, scale their endeavors, and engage on topics ranging from pollution and resilient and adaptive urban coastlines to greenhouse gas reduction, regenerative aquaculture, and much more.


"We now have startups that are demonstrating it is not only possible to operate here but also to thrive, as exemplified by Kind Designs, the 3D print seawalls company from our first cohort. They have successfully raised $5 million and secured another four and a half million in pre-orders," Daniel proudly states.


Photos courtesy of Kind Designs

Among Seaworthy’s recent graduates is Johanan Dujon of Algas Organics, who transforms sargassum into cost-effective, world-class organic crop nutrition and protection products; here is also Yadira Diaz of Gradible, the environmental concierge, which offers wide-ranging solutions for businesses to become zero-waste. With 8 million tons of plastic entering the oceans every year, solutions like Johanan’s and Yadira’s should be scalable and visible along with a supportive, inclusive, and nurturing climate ecosystem for early-stage entrepreneurs.


“What does it look like to involve other stakeholders who haven't traditionally been involved? This inclusivity is crucial. It provides startups with an opportunity to break through, secure product-market fit, including government contracts, establish their proof of concept, and become investable and scalable,” Daniel continues. “So, this is a big advantage that allows emerging entrepreneurs to pilot and connect with opportunities that historically may not have been accessible to them. Furthermore, we’re seeing policy innovation through organizations like The Miami-Dade Innovation Authority that are starting to build this bridge.”


Launched in 2023 with seed funding from Miami-Dade County, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin, the Miami-Dade Innovation Authority (MDIA) was founded with equal private, public, and philanthropic funding totaling $9 million. The first MDIA Public Innovation Challenge aimed to find sustainable uses for Sargassum seaweed, and the second one accepted proposals offering sustainable solutions to improve Miami International Airport to better serve its residents and visitors.

While the blue tech space is booming, ocean financial literacy among investors, including building the blue bonds market, remains profoundly underfunded. According to the Sustainable Ocean Economy report released by CITI GPS in June 2023, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, 'Life Below Water,' is the least funded, despite its ability to support all other SDGs. The funding gap amounts to approximately $149 billion per year, compared to the estimated required annual spend of $175 billion.


Daniel notes: “When we look at the financial side of ecosystem development, philanthropy is the biggest missing piece, especially locally in South Florida. I view philanthropy as the catalyst for ecosystem development and startup pipeline development. The problem is that philanthropy in the ocean space has been so antiquated with a focus on solutions that aren't scalable, mainly addressing symptomatic issues such as saving sea turtles or beach cleanups. The reality is we need root-cause addressing  solutions in parallel to these traditional restoration efforts to solve these problems much faster and more effectively than what philanthropy has supported historically.”


New funding opportunities are coming: The U.S. Economic Development Administration recently named South Florida a Climate Resilience Tech Hub. Getting on the list isn’t just an honorary accomplishment and validation for efforts underway across Greater Miami. It opens roughly $75 million in federal grants.


“Climate Tech is a very fast-moving field. Miami-Dade is primed to lead efforts in climate globally and to grow a diverse workforce to support jobs that will be created. Our job as government, and as one of the largest engines in the local economy, is to support the growth of innovation aimed at tackling our most pressing challenges and to ensure that these solutions benefit all of our community equitably,” says Francesca de Quesada Covey, the Chief Innovation and Economic Development Officer for Miami-Dade County.


A clear illustration of the government's willingness to engage with a wider community is the response to public discontent regarding a contentious proposal for a $4.6 billion seawall in the delicate marine ecosystem of Biscayne Bay. The plan, initially proposed by The US Army Corps of Engineers, was pushed back after strong local opposition from residents and environmental groups.

“I can't point to any other project where a community was able to work as collaboratively with the US Army Corps,” adds Francesca. “It happened because the community showed why it was important to solve this issue in partnership and understanding the many nuances of the problem.”


Galen Treuer, who works closely with Francesca and is one of the key drivers of the climate innovation ecosystem, asserts that leaders in the private sector have to step up with the same level of involvement and engagement as prominent climate nonprofit leaders like Miami Waterkeeper, Catalyst, or CLEO Institute. And the time is now:


“To be perfectly honest, in South Florida, in Miami, we can’t get there without private sector partnership, investment, and the whole community; for example, we won’t get the solutions that we need without the real estate developers, because they’re the ones building the infrastructure that will determine whether people’s homes and workplaces are safe or not in the future.”


Today, everyone has the chance to engage in discussions shaping Miami-Dade’s climate resilience future. The Climate Tech Meetups held monthly at the Beacon Council and co-hosted with Miami-Dade County office consistently draw enthusiastic visionaries; Galen and Matt Haggman, openly declare: “No one is invited because everyone's invited.”  And the room on the 24th floor is always packed.


“We open our doors so that all can participate and create a platform, hopefully, that people will ultimately see as theirs,” says Matt Haggman, who launched Opportunity Miami more than two years ago. “But it really starts with outreach and continues through different activities. With our climate tech meetups, I would say three-fourths of the people at these meetups are often individuals who have never even met before.”


As the future-focused arm of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, Opportunity Miami is a platform for people passionate about where Miami goes next. The conversations on Greater Miami’s economic future happen onsite and online, then are viewable on YouTube and in Opportunity Miami’s newsletters. For the last two years, the organization has truly evolved into a media platform that makes the case for what’s possible by telling the story of the entrepreneurs already here doing the work.


“We're in a world that requires compasses more than maps. We know generally the direction we want to go in. But every month, every year, things are changing so rapidly,” Matt continues. “Think about how AI was talked about last year versus this year. So the idea was, let's create a platform that literally, on a daily and weekly basis, is elevating solutions and ideas on issues that are critical to our economic future.”

Matt identifies three areas critical for Miami’s sustainable future as a climate tech leader: entrepreneurship and innovation, talent and inclusion, and the transition to a net zero economy. Under each category, we have extraordinary entrepreneurs who are launching transformative efforts that are underway right now. Matt expands:


How we produce food: we have Atlantic Sapphire, the largest indoor Aquaculture Facility in the world, that thinks they can ultimately get to a net zero supply chain. How we get around: we have one of the largest electric vehicle charging network companies in the US, Blink, based here in Miami Beach and another one, OBE Power, that's rapidly growing. How we heat the dwellings that we live in: Watsco, the largest air conditioning distributor in North America, is based in Coconut Grove. One of the really exciting startups in the air conditioning space, Blue Frontier, based in Boca Raton, which is beginning to scale. We see companies like Lennar, through its venture arm LenX, they are investing in companies that are developing innovative solutions such as clean concrete.


“All these developments are taking place in Miami. What's exciting is that, as we move forward, these initiatives can only grow. Ultimately, what lies ahead is the possibility of Miami becoming a global hub for climate solutions."


We hope you appreciated this paywall-free article. As an independent community-driven publication, Impact.Edition elevates the voices of local changemakers who work toward positive, lasting change – from addressing social inequality to saving the planet from environmental ruin. We would be grateful if you would consider a monthly donation to support our volunteering editorial efforts and shared mission to empower people with best practices and creative solutions for a more just, more sustainable world. Any donation to Impact.Edition will be tax-deductible. Thank you for making a difference!


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