Building underwater ecosystems to boost marine biodiversity

2 September 2022 |

A warm welcome to Reefy, our newest Buccaneer. An innovative start-up which strives to make a positive impact with nature-based solutions to improve life under the sea. We speak with co-founder Jaime Ascencio about their journey as a startup company.

Could you, in a few words, tell me how Reefy is innovating?

We are developing innovations for the blue economy. As a company we are striving to improve life under the sea. We do so by developing massive ‘Lego-like’ reef blocks. These blocks can be assembled underwater, forming a stable structure that breaks waves, but also creates an underwater labyrinth where fish and other species can shelter and breed. This while protecting coastlines from erosion.

As a young company I guess you already had quite an adventure, before joining Buccaneer Delft. How is your journey coming along so far?

The idea for Reefy was something I had in mind for a longer period. In Mexico after studying civil engineering, I worked as Business Developer finding solutions for environmental problems for different resorts. From first hand I saw the problems they faced revolving coastal protection. From time to time beaches could just vanish due to waves, meaning less tourists. At the same time, artificial reefs were tried as a breakwater but they were not stable enough to withstand the wave attack. There had to be some kind of solution.

Moving to Delft

In 2017 I moved to Delft to follow a master in hydraulic engineering. I saw that this problem was not only in the Caribbean but everywhere in the world, and that despite a lot of media attention, no one took the right steps to create working solutions. Therefore, I decided to do an additional year of entrepreneurship and that is where Reefy started”

After opening the Instagram of Reefy, I got in contact with other efforts helping the reefs worldwide.  This is where I met Leon Haines, my companion and the co-founder of Reefy. Leon was in Indonesia diving every day to restore corals. He saw the limitations of upscaling reef restoration with existing techniques. Convinced about the potential of helping nature with projects that people need and are already paying for, he flew back to the Netherlands to join Reefy. With him, we combine engineering and marine biology to find solutions for nature and people.

Developing and testing

In the year that followed, we successfully developed and tested our innovation. For this we have worked together with Deltares, BurgersZoo and Blijdorp.  At the same time we got quite some recognition. We signed up for several competitions and won some awards. This confirmed we were heading in the right direction.

You have joined Buccaneer Delft and our accelerator program, what do you want to achieve and where do you see yourself in appr. 5 years?

As a young entrepreneur you don’t have the answer to every question or concern that is raised. Therefore, we wanted to join a community in which we could learn from others. The community of Buccaneer Delft caught our eye since it is so focused on the maritime sector. At the Buccaneer we hope to learn from other, experienced entrepreneurs.

You don’t always have the answer to every question or concern that is raised. Therefore, we wanted to join a community in which we could learn from others.

Jaime Ascencio, Co-Founder Reefy

During the last year we developed our strategy and wanted to be ready for funding and investments. In the upcoming years I expect to be working on many projects. Not only in the Netherlands but also internationally focusing on shoreline protection and offshore wind with our innovations. In a few words, building new underwater ecosystems together with infrastructure to boost marine biodiversity.

To finish up, we of course would like to encourage the next generation to become an entrepreneur. Do you have a tip for them?

It is funny you ask. During my master in Delft I met Rutger de Graaf-van Dinther, co-founder of Blue21. He gave me this tip which I have remembered since: “Just do it. Try, adapt, fail or succeed. No matter the outcome, all learnings will be valuable. You can learn so much more by just doing it than reading it in books. Sometimes you just need to believe in yourself and take the jump.”