It is possible to make corals grow faster by inducing a small current. This system is already implemented in the world of coral farming. However, existing systems are very expensive and therefore not suitable for most restoration projects. They are of course dependent on donations and sponsoring. Bob, one of our volunteers and owner of a houseboat, accepted the challenge to develop a new system that is both simple and cheap.
What has a houseboat to do with coral growth?
Bob lives on a houseboat with a metal hull. Metal and (sea)water do not go well together; the metal will rust. To protect hulls against rust, cathodic protection is used. Simply stated a current runs between the metal hull of a ship and a so called anode (another piece of metal), which prevents the hull from rusting but sacrifices the anode. This principle uses the same technique as the one that stimulates coral growth. By applying a current between 2 metal objects, on one side a more basic environment is created in which corals grow faster.
Can I build it as well?
Bob’s goal is to make new systems as simple and cheap as possible. All parts should be available through webshops. The system itself will become open source. The manual shall be put online, so everybody with some technical skills can make it. That way, it will be possible for many projects to make such a system and help their corals.
A prototype of this Coral Aid system was installed and tested on Koh Tao last month. It works fantasticly!. The first system is powered by solar panels. The main advantage is the independence from a land based power source. However, the solar panel needs to stay on the surface. This brings risks of damage (not all captains are equally capable at driving their boats) and theft. The new system that is under development, will get its power from land.
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