Today’s guest on #MWL is Blayne Ross. We discuss coral reef advocacy, how the government isn’t working to help coastal erosion, and new, sustainable tech he’s working on to fix the problem.

Blayne's company is doing great work to reverse the concerning trend of coastal erosion. People like Blayne give me hope for the future!


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what's up

Marcus Whitney's audio universe Marcus

would need live how's everybody doing

today I was a little bit bummed out I

have to admit when I saw the case case

count today for Kovac 19 but I am

working to lift my spirits today and to

stay positive and stay focused about

what we can do to build a new normal and

along those lines we have an opportunity

to get out in front with innovation and

heart and intelligence and

entrepreneurship to solve another big

existential problem that we have as

humans on this planet Earth another one

of these big global issues and I'm

really excited to have today's guest on

to talk about this this is my new friend

entrepreneur and sort of global global

advocate for ocean health my man playing

Ross Blaine what's good man 


hey thank

you so much for having me on Marcus I

really appreciate it and 



glad to have

you on glad to have you on 



down here

sweating with everyone else in Miami

this summer 


yeah so really quickly we're

gonna focus on everything that that

you've got going on but really quickly I

do want to just ask last night I was

watching CNN the mayor of Miami was on

CNN sort of talking about everything

that's that's happening there in your

city you know I see you sort of overruns

or feel like imminent you know just as

someone who's actually living in it you

know what's what's what's your your what

can you tell us about what's going on in




yeah I think the the climate down

here has really kind of changed

we were very lackadaisical about it it

seemed like at first and you know there

were there was the request to wear masks

and and whatnot and and you probably see

maybe 30% of the people that were kind

of wearing them and then as things

started changing a couple weeks ago

I mean they put the county put in a

masking mandate everybody's you know in

the masks and they're paying attention

they're not getting together as often I

think we were a little slow on the whole

Beach thing and not not they opened them

up and they shouldn't have I think

because it's really hard to go to the

beach you want to wear a hot mask and

it's just the behaviors you're gonna be

next to somebody so yeah unfortunate did

it happened but they did correct that

and we're back - I really hope improving



yeah I hope so too the the numbers were

startling so you know my my thoughts and

prayers with everybody down there and

you know hopefully things get back to

normal as soon as they can just in terms

of people being able to get out and

about okay so so with that let's let's

talk about you and let's talk about your

your venture sherlock just give a quick

background on you and you know sort of

who you are personally professionally

and then we'll jump into your business



all right cool personally I grew up here

in Florida this is Jacksonville as my

home originally and I'm a big water guy

I've been out whether it's water skiing

or sailing or doing anything it's always

water and Beach related and it just has

been since I was a little kid and you

know when you start thinking about

things in your life that are important

you know this has always been one of

them for me is being able to be outside

in the environment and so I you know get

myself into triathlons occasionally and

I've got a new puppy I'm raising so that

we can be outside and running around

just doing that kind of stuff and I've

kind of had a big life shift this has

been a big change for me I was up in New

York for the last 11 years and I kind of

pursuing some of my creative passions

which has been you know wonderful and

fulfilling and I've got some neat things

that are my belt from doing that and I

got kind of to a point where I thought

you know I really want to start changing

and doing something that's like I can

have an effect on the planet and I can

bring more and you know soul-searching

will do that and that's kind of where

you know I led into work a little bit

this is what I'm doing now that way 




so so let's let's talk about the the

issue the problem that you that you


we start talking about the business in

the solution because admittedly with the

pandemic going on you know I I seem to

be completely focused on covert 19 is

like the only existential threat we

could possibly be facing and everything

is doing to the economy and to our

communities and to people but you know

we we have had this debate going on for

quite a while now about climate change

and about the rising sea level and about

the impact that that's going to have on

our society on on our economy on our way

of life you know just to give us just a

basic background on what's at stake and

what's happening right now 



or so I think

the best way to approach this is is that

you know we're - we're at a point in

history where our technology is really

advanced and we can now monitor and

really see what is actually happening

with the seas I don't think that the

climate the climate change conversation

should be I feel this way or I feel that

way it should be here's the data this is

what's actually happening and that

should be the way that you make

calculations and changes about what

you're going to do in the future the

empirical version of it is living in

Miami because we have a full moon and a

king tide which for those of you guys

that are not familiar is a high tide at

a full moon and when that happens the

streets of Miami down to Miami Beach

will tend to flood you know you'll see

news clips all over the all over the


you know we've got 18 inches today we've

got 8 inches today you know that's just

empirical evidence so there's no arguing

with that we have to drive through it

people stall their cars out in it so you

know if the sea levels are rising it we

have to start really thinking about how

we're taking care of a process and one

of the things that has been a continual

issue is coastal erosion the ocean is

gonna do its thing it's gonna come in

each time the wave goes back out let's

take a little sand with it and there's

two different ways that you can handle

it you can either go

suck up the ocean floor or and dredging

and put the sand on the beach or you can

go to a sand mine that maybe somewhere

off several hours away and truck it in

those have been the two-bit main issue

ways that we've taken care of things

occasionally we build Rock groins which

are like jetties they're a little

different but similar you know the

things like that are they're hard

engineered structures and they have

their own positives and negatives you

know when you put something there you

can change the change the flow of water

and actually make your erosion worse in

another area so we've been doing things

the same way for a long time and now

we're at a point where we've run out of

some of our natural resources like sand

is now I believe the third most valuable

mineral resource that we have is

something again Miami a great example

they've dredged so many times there's

not sand right off the coast of Miami

Beach anymore so they have to truck it

in you know that's that's a very good

example and real for what's happening

and it gets more complicated to farther

up to the state and into other parts of

the country so that's just kind of I

think a little bit of the big picture is

that with the majority of the world's

population living within you know a

couple kilometers of the coastline we

have to start looking at alternative

ways to protect this because it's a

problem and it's coming 



yeah so so let's

go back to what you just said 



 majority of the Earth's population

 living, you know, near or on the coastline...

 Like what, I I don't think most

 people think about that. Although I think

 if you think about the most populated

 areas in the United States, it's

 certainly not the middle of the country.

 It's definitely you know sort of on on

 the coast. But but talk talk a little bit

 more about that from a global

 perspective, like because I don't think I

 really had thought about that, although

 it makes a ton of sense.



Yeah, well start...

 I mean you start looking at it from a

 standpoint of trade. So originally the

 reason we were on the water is

 temperatures and trade. You want to be

 able to get go out and fish, and to sell

 your fish, and to move your fish to the

 next town. Or to be able to launch your

 army or to be able to just move goods. So

 that's always going to be the densest of

 any any country if

 you are not a landlocked one, then you're

 on the coast, yeah.



Yeah okay okay. And and

 and today, what what percentage of people

 like live on on or near the coastline?



I hate using the percentage on this one because

 -I've seen it and it's been a little

 while, so don't uh misquote it- I would

 say it's somewhere it's it's somewhere

 between 48-55%.



Yeah that's... even if you're in

 the universe -even if it's 30%-

 it's really really big. It's a big number.



Yeah yeah yeah you know it's it's it's a

 massive number. And you know, every every

 different area has a different condition

 that's going on… I mean you have places

 that have sea walls. You have places that

 are soft beach. You have places that have

 a natural coastline, and each one of

 these things has to be handled a little

 bit in a unique way. There's not a

 one-size-fits-all prescription for this.

 And it is really about each, the

 leadership in each city, really going

 after and trying new things and and

 seeing what's working and having a

 conversation. Because that it... when you're

 going into a place that's the like where

 we were with COVID and a pandemic, you're

 in reaction mode. But with the

 environment right now, you we can be

 proactive about some of the things that

 we're doing. And then thank god for

 private foundations stepping in and

 funding scientists and engineers to try

 things, because that's the way we move

 forward. That's how we, you know, protect

 trillions of dollars of real estate. If

 you even think for a second that

 not not protecting things

 isn't gonna cause massive financial

 problems, you just be you know missing

 the boat.



right right so so your business

you talked about sea walls and that's

like one of the sort of standard

approaches to dealing with rising water

it's like just build a wall right okay

that makes sense your business has taken

a more scientific approach to how we

might be able to deal with this natural

occurrence which is ocean erosion which

may be exacerbated by climate change you

know and some some more severe weather

patterns that we're experiencing right



yep exactly you know for thousands of

years kind of Engineering's been the way

that we

we handle things and that's by

physically doing things and what

Sherlock is doing is actually taking as

you mentioned a science approach

developed by a microbiologist named dr.

Troy Scott and he really wanted to look

at it from how do we optimize nature how

do we start using what we've already got

and just make it a little bit better and

that was really the initial concept for

how this idea was born and to explain it

briefly it really is when the waves come

in to shore and then they retreat they

may be pulling backs and almost like the

way you're peeling back layers of an

onion okay pretty simple yeah but what

we're trying to do is say okay well if

that wave is also taking away sand why

is that happening can we can we improve

that a little bit and so what Sherlock

does is it's a powder and we mix it in

with the wet zone of the beach from the

high tide to the low tide mark very

little of it actually and what that does

is allows the wet sum to absorb just a

little bit of water and let the water

retreat back to the ocean below the

surface level of the sand it stabilizes

and in a very cool way in some places if

we have seen in the Bahamas and in

Jamaica that it will accretes and if new

sand is out there moving around in the

near shore we've seen over ten inches of

sand added in elevation to a beach and

up to about 15 or 16 feet and width

naturally Wow

so there's some opportunity here to for

us to continue to learn with this and

and and hopefully proactively start

managing things 



so I so I have to just

relate it to the pandemic because I

think one of the most frustrating things

about this is that we have apparatus in

place with the World Health Organization

within our country that has outposts in

other countries the CDC you know the

executive branch should be having a

pandemic team in place to sort of you

know have a standard operating response

to these sorts of emergencies when they

when they come this is this feels like

this feels similar insofar as

the impact can be global it can be

really really significant from an

economic perspective and it could be

massively disruptive to our lives in a

way that we're not prepared to sort of

deal with the aftermath of and so it

feels like we we really have to take a

proactive approach unless we want to

have something massively disruptive

happen as a result of it so my question

is how does that how does that

similarity play out for you as an

innovator in the space today you

mentioned private foundations that are

stepping in to sort of help some of this

stuff happen 


I recently learned about

 the term the “blue economy” which is, you

 know, the this this wave of companies

 -probably some that already existed, I

 guess like oil companies I guess fit

 into the blue economy- but it's any

 company that's focused on the ocean. So

 that would be a comp... that would be what

 you would fit into. But what does

 innovation look like in the blue economy?

 What does it feel like to be a founder

 in the blue economy? Like who are you, who

 do you have to work with, and are the

 dollars flowing in this direction like

 they should?



Good question. So on on the

 innovation side of the ocean and there's,

 a ton of stuff coming out right now. We

 are really, really starting to go after

 things that have to do with the ocean,

 and exploring it, and robotics. And you

 know, things like what we're doing and

 how to grow coral, and that... it's all

 fantastic. I'm very excited and enthusiastic

 about where we're headed.

 The interesting part about being an

 innovator -especially when you're coming

 into a new space- is unless somebody has

 been out there, and I say do this more

 for myself, unless somebody has been out

 there and really made your thing an

 issue, sometimes you feel like you are

 the little guy standing in a very large

 room just yelling, “hey look at me over

 here! I’ve got something that can help!” And

 and that's always, that's a funny is a

 funny place because I think of myself

 often as a taxpayer, and an

 environmentalist, as well as being a

 business owner. And my my business

 owner self is like really trying to make

 the rational presentation when I'm

 having these conversations with people, and

 then when they're not getting it, the the

 average citizen in me is standing there

 going, “you are wasting so much capital and

 like environment, and all money... and

 why are you not taking this guy

 seriously?” That that makes me crazy.

 So I think that when you get into

 new spaces, doing new things, that that's...

 I'm not the only one that's ever felt

 that, but that that's gonna be happening

 in our space and explaining why things

 are relevant.



yeah I mean you know I hear

you and I think from a pure business

perspective that makes complete sense

the idea that if you're in a nascent

market meaning you know a market that

hasn't really like taken off you you

have the job of educating people but I

agree I agree with you in that it's one

thing if you're talking about you're

introducing a new sock that keeps your

feet cooler 10 to grease cooler okay

that's like you have to educate people

when you're talking about the shoreline

it's like it's our earth you know what I

mean it's it's our it's our planet and

to me you're dealing with something

different you're not dealing with just

educating a market you're dealing with

cognitive dissonance you know what I

mean you're dealing with trying to

effectively communicate an economic case

when people want to stick their fingers

in their ears and their head in the sand

like how do you and look you may feel

like it's it's inappropriate for you to

make any comments because you're trying

to win win friends and and and influence

people positively I can sort of talk

about this because I'm not into space

right but but but it is it is it is a

different form of the innovators dilemma

for me when you're an innovative is

trying to do something that's actually

going to help humanity and you can't get

people to pay attention and the in the

the the downside of not at least taking

your meeting or considering what you're

what you're talking about doing relative

to all the other solutions that are

currently available is so so significant

it's like the downside of me not buying

these like you know cooler socks is not

that big a deal you know what I mean but

the downside of me not figuring out how

to slow

or reverse coral erosion is like this is

my my children's future this is you know

what I mean like this is a very very

different thing so anyway I went on a

bit of a soapbox there but I just would

I would find it really difficult to be

an innovator and a founder and an

entrepreneur in in your shoes 


you know I

I was filing because I had a

conversation yesterday and I tend to

like to call this the already always

listening syndrome in the people assume

that they already know what you're

talking about so they turned you off

before they've listened to actually

being able to say yes and I was on the

phone with a government person yesterday

and she said well III just you know

she's by the way we've they're doing

conversations around this for two years

in this particular deferment sure she

was law I just don't understand why

someone would want to cement the beach

together and I said there's no aspect of

what we are doing that cements the beach

together and she said will you make sand

particles attract and I said yes but you

can't feel it it doesn't make a

difference to the way that it looks or

feels to them to an animal or to a

Fisher to a plant or it to a human you

know here's all the data but she just

for two years just suddenly was for the

first time actually willing to go oh you

mean you're not turning the beach into

cement oh okay that makes sense like it

was just little light bulbs and they're

in and I think that sometimes when we're

having those conversations in a new

space people already think they know

what you're talking about yeah I think

made their might yeah you know 



yeah I

mean that that that is why things like

this like continuing to you know

continuing to hone your story hone honed

the way that you're communicating it is

so so important because people do

connect dots if you don't explicitly

connect them you know what I mean they

they do sort of come to conclusions if

you don't help them get really clear on

that so okay so talk to me about you

know where your where your business is

today and and where the market is today

you know like you're you're in Miami

you're on the ground you're having these


worse with with with folks

obviously people are very very you know

overwhelmed with the kovat situation

right now so I would imagine there's a

lot of distraction and you it's probably

harder than ever for you to get people

to pay attention but generally speaking

like are you generating revenue are you

actually putting your solution and

practicing in the market right now like

like where where are things in this





so the company was started as I

mentioned a few years back and then kind

of put a put on put on hold and the good

news is is that we've got over a

decade's worth of pilots that have been

down in the Caribbean that show us

environmental impact and studies and

helping how it behaves and what it does

in the Caribbean environment so that

that part's fantastic but we have not

been actively out there you know pushing

the sails button we really what we

wanted to do is come into Florida first

and set things up and we had we had such

an interesting circle that happened here

which was the municipalities have to

sign on to sponsor a project in order

for the environmental for the DEP to

sign off on something but the DEP or the

but the state won't sign off until the

municipality signs on so it was the

chicken and the egg thing and I actually

after going through that for an entire

year went to one of our state

legislators and said okay let's try and

get a state pilot's state sponsored

pilot lit so that that takes the

pressure off the municipality and we're

doing this tiny little thing you know

just just enough to make sure everything

is by the Florida standard and you know

we as a company are completely confident

that we're gonna pass that with flying

colors and so we started with that and

just to tell you a little bit about the

importance of what what we're dealing

with here aside from us being at a about

a 40th see just paused weird about 62%

of beaches washing out between 2 and 5

years and now I want you to know that

we've got we've got a budget of 737

million dollars is what's supposed to be

spent in five years so 



I need

to rewind to the to the three to five

year thing you just said yeah yeah yeah

cuz dude that's that I'm not excited

about that what you just said so say

that one more time I want to make sure I

understand what those words mean





So a beach the way that we are

 projecting at the moment...


Let’s take Miami Beach.

 And you may not be saying Miami

 Beach as one of the beaches, but let's

 just take Miami Beach. I know Miami Beach right...



Sure, and we typically

 like to speak in generalities. So we'll

 say we'll say, you know, in 3-5

 years, they expect a nourished beach to

 wash out.



What does that mean? What does “wash

 out” mean?



So if you go and you put in a

 certain amount of sand up to a point,

 they expect that that had that sand has a life expectancy of X. And it's

 really interesting, because the Army

 Corps typically projects for 10 years,

 but yet we know 62% of the those

 coastlines wash out in 3-5.

 26% wash out in 1. So, I mean so

 that that massive number that I said 737



$737 million



Yeah. When you start realizing

 that 62% of that money and

 environmental capital is going to just

 wash out doing the current thing that

 we're doing, it becomes our crisis. That's really bad.

 And you know -and just to put it and

 probably I would say easy to digest

 numbers- Miami Beach specifically put

 down, in 2017, they put $11.5

 million on just under a mile of

 sand, of beach, excuse me. And by 8 -I

 guess it was about 8 months later- we

 had hurricane Irma, and they lost a

 projected of 80% of that $11.5 million.

 Then, and so the sand did its job, but

 they lost it all.



It was gone. It was gone in a

 blink, like in terms of like how long you

 thought that was gonna last. A hurricane

 wiped it out, and we know based on the

 last couple of years, this is gonna

 be the deal.



Yeah, so that's your 26% number that

 happened to be one time when it just it

 went out. Then, in order to get it back,

 obviously you know -the state only has, by

 the way, a $50 million beach

 nourishment budget; you know we have to

 make up from the counties, and we have to

 make up from from federal in order to do

 this- but they then had to apply for

 money, again, and then 3 years -took

 them 3 years- to put it back on the

 beach. And this time, it cost them $16.5 million.



Wow Wow and I

mean you know I think about that

combined with the loss of tourism

revenue right that all of these coastal

towns cities counties are experiencing

lately like that feels like a recipe for

total disaster well it it closes the

beach yeah as well as you know when you

have to put it back it's closed and it's

em and if it happens to be gone then you

don't get to use it there are hotels

that we've got here that we had you know

that when the erosion gets all the way

up to the dune line where are you gonna

put all your beach chairs and how much

food and beverage are you losing you

know every day when you don't have that

150 beach chairs in front of your in

front of your hotel and then when they

do decide to do it you then have three

months of big trucks and you can't go

out there and they're slurry and all

this other things that are going on out


so it's so the economic impact of not

taking care of it is astronomical so

that's when you look at a solution like

ours that's gonna help reduce the rate

at which it's washing away it makes a

lot of financial sense not even just on

the people that are buying the sand but

on the community that it's around like

let's let's keep what we got yeah yeah

so so so what do you need in order for

your business to really start to get

some traction what's what's like then

the next key thing that you that you

need yeah we we really need the

Department of Environmental Protection

for every state to get it on board with

us as well as the Army Corps of

Engineers okay and start between the two

of them they need to start really

prescribing and talking about and

applying this to the

when they do that because I'll do it for

each area they always come in and

they'll do a study a monitor and all of

that you know that needs to be the

conversation that needs to happen is we

have to have on a large scale with the

government to do that here in this

country at least Wow man you are you're

you're taking up a big big big big task

man I you know I just like launched a

book and you know I'm trying to get my

book out you're like trying to fix the

coastline it's just like two different

orders of magnitude in terms of like the

problems were tackling but uh man you

know best best of luck to you on it

you know if III asked you before the

before we started the show for the

average person so like we just had this

conversation I feel a ton smarter about

this and I feel like I can have better

conversations with my friends and seem

smart and sort of know some things that

you know people that are working to fix

it and know things that can that can be

done to fix it but I think everyone to

some degree does care about this

everyone loves Miami right you know what

I mean or they love some Beach maybe

they don't love Miami but they love you

know I don't know you know San Diego or

whatever right you know that but they

love a beach right what what can the

average individual who's listening to

this who doesn't work for the Army Corps

of Engineers or doesn't you know have

have buying power at the state's you

know environmental you know group level

what what can the average person do to

contribute to making this happen what

can they do

yeah I that's really about outreach to

your local politicians or to your state

senator or House of Representatives

member and saying we are interested in

either you can name us specifically and

say you know we're interested in

Sherlock and and tell them why you know

and and say look I either I disagree

with the environmental impact or I

disagree with the financing that we're

spending you know I there's been so much

conversation around coral health lately

that maybe that's what the the trigger

is for them to understand that being the

legislature for them to understand how

important it is by saying look if we go

out in there and plant all this coral

and then we nourish the beach and it

diseases and dies then what do we just

do that for you know all of this ocean

it's all really tied in together it's

very integrated and and and that's where

we get it make it happen is legislature

got it yeah I mean it feels like we have

a lot of work to do on the Legislature's

side of things and there's so many

issues this is a big election year so

yeah just yet another reason why civics

are important and why we as citizens

need to continue to try to educate

ourselves not be you know swept up in

the sensational headlines and try to

sort of understand real issues and

importantly understand the narratives

that are going to click with the

politicians right like you said if coral

health is something they're paying

attention to now and they understand and

it's a talking point use that if you

know the economy is a talking point

which it always is who's that right you

know but use the things that are

actually going to get them to like pay

attention because that's that's the game

that's the game we're playing there it

is clean thanks so much man I appreciate

it I learned a ton in the last 45

minutes prep time as well as on this on

this call and you know I think everyone

who's listening will have learned as

well so thanks and best of luck to you

and for you out there if you're if

you're watching or listening and you

want to learn more about Sherlock or you

want to follow Blaine because you

thought he was really smart and he has a

lot of things to say about this topic

you can follow him at Blaine Ross on

Twitter at Blaine underscore Ross and

then Sherlock comm is the website for

their company where you can find out

more about who they are and what they

are doing out there another reminder

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whitney's audio universe everywhere you

get podcasts and finally follow me

online everywhere at Marcus Whitney or

go to Marcus Whitney comm that's it I

will see you again tomorrow with another

episode of Marcus Whitney live until

then let's build the new normal y'all


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