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A new plant-based solution may be the next step in preventing beach erosion

A beach with sand in the foreground, a lifeguard station, and building in the background
The Invading Sea

Shorelock is biopolymer that enhances the interaction of sand particles with water to resist erosion, provide a more stable coastline.

The following Q&A was conducted with Troy Scott and Blayne Ross, the Miami-based co-founders of ShoreLock. ShoreLock is a plant-based biopolymer solution used to prevent beach erosion. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How exactly did the idea to create ShoreLock come to be? 

Blayne Ross: Troy and I are both down here in Florida. When you see the need growing over and over throughout the years, you start really realizing that you’ve got a lot of challenges. With Troy’s background in microbiology, he really looked at our needs in the state of Florida and tried to embrace what was going on down here to figure out how we could find a resolution to a coastal problem that’s pretty continuous.

Can you explain how your technology works?

Troy Scott: ShoreLock is a biopolymer that basically restores or enhances the interaction of sand particles with water. So, essentially, the way we look at it is when you build a sandcastle, if you have too much water, the sandcastle collapses. If you have too little water, the sandcastle collapses. What ShoreLock does is optimize the amount of interstitial water to optimize the cohesion between the sand and in turn, resist erosion and provide a more stable coastline.

Two men standing side-by-side and smiling
Blayne Ross and Troy Scott, co-founders of ShoreLock.

How is it applied? 

Ross: ShoreLock is actually super simple. What we’re doing comes in a powder-based compound and it can either be trenched in or dug in. It’s being done in three-foot intervals placed about 10 to 12 inches below the surface level of the sand. In a small application, if you’re working on 500 feet, you can quickly go in with a couple of guys and insert it. If you’re working on a multi-mile contract, you’d be able to trench it in whichever way is most appropriate.

How long does it last?

Ross: ShoreLock is a plant-based biopolymer. You’re looking at something that biodegrades over time. So, somewhere around the four-to-six-month mark, it washes off. We find that putting down quarterly applications is the most effective way to maintain the cohesion over time, and much like anything, you don’t want to put something in the environment that’s ever going to be permanent. So, that period is a nice refresh for it.

What makes your technology sustainable? What kind of benefits does it have for the environment?

Ross: For those people that are not familiar with the way that things are currently done, there’s two methods that are primarily used in order to nourish beaches. The first is offshore coastal dredging, which is the process of taking sand off of the ocean floor and then piping it and pumping it onto the coastline. The second method is mining sand, which involves putting sand into dump trucks 13 yards at a time and then hauling it to the location.

Photo of a beach with rocks in the foreground
Beach erosion before ShoreLock was used at Iberostar Resort in Jamaica.
A beach with sand in the foreground, a lifeguard station, and building in the background
The beach at Iberostar Resort in Jamaica after ShoreLock was used.

Here in South Florida, depending on where you are, we have actually used up our sand resources. For example, Miami is required to purchase sand coming in from outside. If you have 800-900,000 cubic yards of sand that have to be brought to the shoreline, and you think about dividing that over dump trucks at 13 yards at a time, you start really grasping how much the pollution, the traffic, the distance and all of the CO2 that’s emitted in the process when we go and mine sand.

When you’re looking at something like ShoreLock, you’re gaining the opportunity to extend the life of that beach a little bit longer. What we’re doing is we’re conserving resources and we’re mitigating carbon, the CO2 output that actually is attached and comes with the sourcing of sand with the first two methods we talked about.

What kind of impact does ShoreLock have on marine life? 

Ross: It does not have any impact on marine life. The United Nations Environmental Protection Fund did a yearlong study of it when we were doing a pilot down in the Caribbean and they looked at everything from the typical marine life that you’ve just questioned down to the microflora and fauna level to make sure that there wasn’t any impact.

How affordable is your technology compared to other solutions to beach erosion?

Ross: We really look at it from the standpoint of two things. One, you’re extending the life of the existing nourishment, but two our actual cost is fractional in comparison to what a mechanical solution would be. We really want this to be out there and be something that can be used across the state. But it’s also plant-based. It doesn’t require the infrastructure that some of the larger options require in order to do placement.

What kind of projects have you guys already done so far?

Scott: We’ve done numerous resorts and private developments. We did resorts in the Caribbean, primarily in Jamaica and the Bahamas, but also the Dominican Republic and Aruba. We started in the Caribbean because we had these small clients, these hotels, that were able to fund it. We did go through the proper channels with the permitting and such with the government, that was just our best avenue of entry basically. But now, after this amount of time, we’re moving in towards the U.S., which is a different environment, so to speak, but we’re still active in the Caribbean as well.

Mostly, we’ve been effective in small beaches, two kilometers and below. Even in these small areas, we’ve shown significant, positive environmental impacts. We’ve seen sea turtles nest in new places where they’ve never nested before. We’ve created beaches where we’ve never seen beaches before, even in hotels along the coastline where there were areas where there wasn’t sand. We were able to bring sand in to add more usable beach.

How do you wish to expand in the coming years? 

Ross: Expansion right now for us really looks like continuing to knock on doors here in Florida until we find a partner that is willing to go the distance with us. We’re starting to have conversations in some of the northern states as well. I think that that’s probably our greatest outlook over the course of the next year is developing a U.S. pilot in the coming months.

Bella Kubach is a Florida Atlantic University senior majoring in multimedia journalism who is reporting for The Invading Sea during the spring 2024 semester.

Sign up for The Invading Sea newsletter by visiting here. If you are interested in submitting an opinion piece to The Invading Sea, email Editor Nathan Crabbe at ncrabbe@fau.edu.

This story was produced in partnership with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a multi-newsroom initiative formed to cover the impacts of climate change in the state.  

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