STUART, Fla. — Florida’s coral reefs have been in trouble in recent years.
The Department of Environmental Protection said warmer ocean temperatures and water pollution have led to more frequent coral bleaching events and disease.
While some organizations are trying to grow their own natural coral, a Treasure Coast business has paired up with a well-known steward of the environment to see if their man-made reef solution can help.
Most of the products created at Printed Patio involve columns or planters, but they’re about to embark on something new--a concrete reef for the Florida Oceanographic Society.
“What you’re seeing is concrete 3D printing. Just like hobbyists do on their desktop but at a much larger scale,” said Justin D’Angelo.
The reef will be placed in the 750,000 gallon saltwater aquarium outside the society’s new eco-center on Hutchinson Island.
“Because of the design, it has a lot of nooks and crannies and allows them to get out of the sun and make their own space,” said Brittany Hascup of Florida Oceanographic Society.
Hascup is the director of animal care and life support for Florida Oceanographic Society.
She said if fish have places to hide, there’s less aggression, and stress in the water.
“This will also be a little bit of an enrichment, because it’s a brand-new habitat for them,” Hascup said. “So, a tank they may have lived in for a long period of time now has something new for them to explore.”
The reef will be 9-feet long and 4-feet thick. It’s made of a special concrete mix.
“It needs to be liquid enough to pump, but it needs to set fast enough so you can continually build on yourself.”
The amount of concrete would stretch for just over a mile. Once the reef is finished, it will have to cure for a month.
“It allows us to be artistically free and we can create concrete items without having to use traditional molds.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife will give the final approval. The plan is for it to be placed in the water early next year.
The head of Printed Patio told WPTV he was inspired by a European company that has developed similar 3D reefs in places like Portugal.