Rising sea levels are an imminent threat to coastal cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Miami, which even published a 40-year Stormwater Master Plan to combat the encroaching effects of climate change. Unless these cities act fast—and the government forks over $400 billion to aid seawall construction by 2040—their days above water might be numbered. South Florida may be particularly susceptible to upland erosion and surge flooding, but the region’s entrepreneurs are on the forefront of climate tech innovation. A recent disruptor in the field is Anya Freeman, the founder of Miami startup Kind Designs, which has devised a solution to 3D print “living seawalls.”
Seawalls are typically made of concrete built parallel to the shore to protect against coastal erosion. These structures are expensive to produce and degrade after 30 to 40 years, leaching toxins like chloride that make the water supply more alkaline and hostile to marine species. Freeman’s solution involves 3D-printing 95 percent of the seawall structure using recycled marine plastic fibers fortified with a proprietary additive rather than rebar. This approach allows Kind Designs to produce seawall panels more quickly, cheaply, and flexibly than traditional methods—a crucial advantage given that Florida will need 10,000 miles of them by 2040. Unlike traditional seawalls, Kind Designs panels incorporate biomimetic principles that create coral reefs and mangroves while embedded sensors monitor pH levels and temperature.
Though Kind Designs launched in June, the startup is already making waves. In six months, Freeman has opened the company’s warehouse, generated revenue, and plans to triple production capacity next year by purchasing two more printing robots. Her work so far has attracted high-profile clientele—she’s spearheading a pilot project on Richard Branson’s Necker Island and recently secured venture capital from investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban. Their support is a boon for Freeman, a Ukraine native who landed in Miami for law school but changed her career path after learning about the power of 3D-printing to address climate change. “It’s a very exciting time to innovate,” Freeman told Refresh Miami. “I strongly believe that Miami will become an example for the rest of the world, based on how we can address the challenges of climate change in a way that’s fantastic for the environment and the local economy.”