We love startups that are changing the game by finding sustainable ways to do business. ARC Marine is a business building artificial reefs from marine-friendly concrete, helping to regenerate damaged coastal reefs. We spoke to to co-founder Tom Birbeck about his business.

1. Explain your business in 30 seconds or less

ARC Marine specialises in designing, producing and deploying artificial reef structures.  We assist companies who have environmental obligations to fulfill in the marine world, due to various business interests - whether that means a private reef for a hotel to boost eco- tourism, or an offshore turbine company protecting their investment. We work closely with local councils, environmental agencies and other NGO’s to rehabilitate damaged marine habitats across the world. The mantra of our business is “A man-made solution, for a man-made problem.”

We aim to actively involve local communities in regenerating marine habitats by crowdfunding projects across the UK. This puts the power and opportunity back in the hands of the people to do their bit for rocky reef regeneration. ARC Marine will use patented designs and offer people the chance to have their name inscribed on the structures deployed.

Due to the intellectual property we hold, we are the only company who can create and use these reef structures.  More importantly we are an ocean conservation-driven business, which aren’t normally profitable, private companies.  Most work is undertaken on group projects by local charities and volunteers. ARC Marine operates as a construction and consultancy business, but one that prioritises ocean conservation.

Arc Marine team
Arc Marine - Virgin StartUp of the Week

2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?

We are based in Torquay, Devon. I originally grew up here and James and I have a lot of resources we can call upon, such as marina facilities for our survey boats and industrial space for producing artificial reef units. Our first project is located In Lyme Bay off the coast of Torquay, which is great for us.

3. How did you come up with the idea?

We came up with the idea during my time working as a freelance documentary researcher and producer in London. I was researching the opportunity to document the scuttling of a decommissioned vessel, and monitor he transition from wreck to reef.  In the early stages I came across James Doddrell. James was in various media articles with his plans to sink the ex-flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Ark Royal.

After a few excited meetings together (and many dives!) we formed ARC Marine. Since researching artificial reefs in depth we discovered that marine-friendly concrete is an innovative way of building marine habitats and has relatively lower costs then using decommissioned ships, tanks, subway cars etc.

4. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan? 

We were still in the conceptual stage, producing drawings for most of our ideas. However, at the time we had already created a dozen prototypes and had a good idea of the finished product.

5. How have you used it to grow your business?

We have been able to complete our website and start production on test reef structures and deployment. We were also able to buy the production materials in bulk, which was able to give us a considerable saving on the production costs per structure. We aim to crowdfund our latest project and raise awareness for our cause, and at the same time give something back to the ocean, which continues to give us so much!

6. Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?

Adrian Langford was assigned to be our mentor and has made a great contribution.  Adrian comes from a banking and finance background, and provides a fresh look at our business from a financial point of view. This has led to identifying alternative revenue streams and the quickest, most efficient route to achieving positive cashflow.  We cannot thank Adrian enough for his support, and friendly manner when dealing with our questions.

7. Biggest achievement so far?

Obtaining permission by the MMO and Torbay Harbour authority to deploy out test reef in Lyme Bay.  This is a huge step for similar projects like this to be repeated around the UK’s coastline.  The first 10 structures were deployed on the 24th October 2016 and already have marine life making it their home. So far commercial fish stocks such as edible crabs, scallops and shrimp have all been spotted on the reef.

8. What’s next for your business?

We plan to crowdfund a large-scale reef project in Torquay for 2017. We will also be assisting and piloting a test within the renewables energy sector.  Arc Marine has many ideas in design stages and will be looking to apply for further patents later next year.  We are also looking into media connections to document the process of turning a barren seabed into a thriving reef.


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