Coastal Communities


Grow Oyster Reefs

Growing oyster reefs to protect coastal communities and ecosystems

Team Lead

Evelyn Tickle

Basic Information

Our tagline:

GROW Oyster Reefs & Save the EARTH.  


Our pitch:

GROW's Products are designed Inspired-by-Nature 

There is a state of emergency in the USA, catastrophic coastal erosion, rising sea levels and poor water quality. Oysters can help. Oysters filter the water, removing toxins. Oyster reefs are living infrastructures that protect coastlines from storms and tidal surges.

But…many of the world’s existing oyster reefs are functionally extinct. The Chesapeake Bay is dying. Untreated chemical run-off and human waste is creating ‘Dead Zones’ where there is no oxygen to support marine life. Much of Hurricane Sandy’s damage to New York City could have been prevented. In the early 1800s the Harbor was lined with living oyster reefs. Now, these are dead or dying, fragile and vulnerable. Miami is flooded on a regular basis. Our oyster reefs must be revived or rebuilt - they will help.

Walls are not the answer. 14% of US coastal cities have massive sea-walls already. NBC and National Geographic report that by 2100 one-third of our coastal cities will be protected by walls, that cost billions of dollars and will not provide protection from the most severe storms.

At GROW we believe in the power of the oyster. The oyster is an engineer- its reefs and shells work together as a “system of systems” to protect our waters and coastlines. Without them we are sunk, literally, no matter how many engineered systems we humans try to substitute and pay billions of dollars to implement. 

GROW works with the oyster!


GROW Oyster Reefs patent-pending technology is inspired by the oyster to accelerate the growth of reefs.  We understand the habitat, hydrology, form, structure and material composition that the oyster embryo prefers and adult oyster needs to sustain itself and do its job – building reefs, filtering water, neutralizing acids and providing nutrition.  Our systems work with, not against nature. 


GROW has been hard at work for a decade, researching, producing working prototypes, testing our CaCo3 Concrete, Reef Tiles-CORRT and Reef Disks-CORRD, working with The Nature Conservancy and other agencies on the implementation of artificial reefs. Other products are arriving in the marketplace. These will need time for underwater testing before they are accepted by scientists. Other products, using oyster shell, take up to three years to collect enough shell to make a reef, and many of these reefs do not work, as they do not build the ‘stable substrate’ that the embryonic oyster needs to establish itself. The shells are quickly covered by sediment. The reef fails. 


Our products have proven results!  Our products are ready to put in the water today, and are proven to GROW shellfish quicker. Our design and material composition makes ‘GROW Oyster Reefs’ a front runner in the race to clean our waters and hold back the coastlines. 

We are ready to unleash new products to combat climate change at a large scale with our ECO-Infrastructure and Smart Reef Mapping and Sensor Technology. We are beyond the “good idea” phase and need the support of this MIT Challenge to Change the World! 



GROW is ready to GROW! 

The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:

  • Restoring and preserving coastal ecosystems
  • Using data to help people make development decisions

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Norfolk, Virginia, USA
About Your Solution

What makes our solution innovative:

GROW's First Product Line (CaC03 Concrete Mix, Reef Tiles-CORRT and Reef Disks-CORRD) are patent-pending, inspired-by-nature technology that will be further used in SOLVE in the Chesapeake Bay & Northeast waters.

GROW's ECOinfrastructure Products for building underwater bridge foundations and living-seawalls as ecosystem devices are in research and development.

GROW's Smart Reef Technology (Oyster Reef Mapping, Sensor and App) and are further developments of existing technology. The Challenge allows us to bring together specific expertise from team members to develop, fabricate and publicly test in the Hampton Roads area and Boston Harbor when we win the Challenge! 

How technology is integral to our solution:

+Innovative material, structural, and surface science based in biomimicry designed to match oyster shell formula, surface and reef structure allowing biological growth by:

       -GROW's CaCo3 Concrete's calcium content is exponentially increased to expedite oysters' growth & health and neutralize excess acids in the water.

       -GROW's Reef Tiles deliver the only contiguous and natural reef configuration through matting and stacking technology.


+Products & Formwork employ Digital Fabrication.

+SmartReef Technologies encompass cloud-hosted portal backend, native mobile appaugmented reality and integrated sensors mapping reefs and conditions; allowing stakeholders to connect, collaborate, and further scientific knowledge.

Our solution goals over the next 12 months:

1.  Development:  Further develop the new product line, ECOinfrastructure, and set up two public test-sites in Norfolk, Virginia and Boston Harbor.

2. Increase Users:  Increase our range of stakeholders including scientists, aqua-farmers, students, coastal property owners and ultimately customers to educate them on our solution 

3. Implementation:  Deploy our first, robust application of the Smart Reef technologies in the Elizabeth River of Norfolk, VA.

Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:

For every product sold we exponentially increase our ecosystems and people served by billions by using GROW's extremely fast oyster-growing products and revolutionary ECOinfrastructure:

       -protecting our economic lifestyle by keeping waters from rising in coastal cities and protecting coastal owners' property. 

      -health and economic benefits oysters bring by cleaning water: increasing healthy oysters as a food source, increasing wild fish for fishing. 

SmartReef Technologies will allow the world's citizens, aqua-farmers and scientists to map the existence of oysters, detect water quality around and further oyster reefs worldwide for the first time. 

The key characteristics of the populations who will benefit from our solution in the next 12 months:

  • Child
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Urban
  • Rural

The regions where we will be operating in the next 12 months:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • US and Canada

How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:

Top Four:

-Coastal Property Owners - outreach and PR and work through Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s existing program for homeowners. 

-Civil Engineers, Architects, and Scientists who specify product for the already in process products - outreach and PR

-Publicly Accessible ECOinfrastructure Test Site in Norfolk, Virginia & Boston Harbor allowing public view, interact and promote.     

-Launching the open-source Smart Reef System will draw thousands of people to GROW's website. 

How many people we are currently serving with our solution:

The Nature Conservancy, Maine- first artificial reef testing in Maine. Test results will be available August 2018. (100 Reef Tiles)

University of Maryland Testing- data results, white paper, lectures- testing results are very favorable for GROW's CaC03 Concrete growing faster species. (360 Reef Disks) 

U.S. Fish & Wildlife: 10,000lbs CaCO3 Concrete Mix.  

Coastal Property Owners- uncountable customers needing to protect and invest in their properties. (500 units to date)

Underwater Museum of Art-combining art and coral/oyster reef development - 14,000K live viewers, internationally recognized sources (“National Geographic” etc..). 

Elizabeth River Reef Project - testing, showcasing 250 products, Summer, 2018.

How many people we will be serving with our solution in the 12 months and the next 3 years:

12 MONTHS to 3 Years:

-Prototype and Test GROW's ECOinfrastructure in Norfolk Virginia and Boston Waters in a publicly viewable place for promotion and education. (2,500:100,000)

-Smart Reef Technology- Mapping, App & Sensors (only oyster-mapping system available worldwide) available only through GROW's new website. App and Mapping are free, Sensors and Data are purchased. (1,000:500,000 viewers)

-Consultancy & Promotion to Civil Engineers, Architects, Landscape Architects, Scientists (1,000:10,000)

-Coastal Property Owners- Outreach & Sales (500:10,000)

WITHIN 3 YEARS: Product Sales

-NGOs and Governmental Agencies: 100,000 units-12 Reefs. 

-Coastal Homeowners: 500 households-50,000 units.

-Coastal Commercial Property Owners: 100 properties-25,000 units. 

About Your Team

How our solution team is organized:

Other (Please explain below)

Explaining our organization:

GROW is For-Profit & our Challenge is For & Non-Profit

How many people work on our solution team:


How many years we have been working on our solution:

5-10 years

The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:

Evelyn Tickle; 0wner/Inventor Grow Oyster Reefs, llc; Head of Architectural Design James Madison University, Founder of the ConcreteLab. Evelyn is a concrete expert, and nationally recognized, award-winning designer.  

David Richards; Owner, Concursive Corporation; providing the Smart Reef Technology and financial mentorship to GROW. 

Josef Rieger; Aquatic Ecologist Masters from Old Dominion; Deputy Director of Restoration, Elizabeth River Project, Norfolk, Virginia.

Julie Bargmann; Landscape Architect/Founder DIRT Studio, Professor of Landscape Architecture UVA. Internationally recognized work on regenerative landscapes focusing on industrialized/degraded sites. Early work for Elizabeth River.

Brian Williams; Architectural Designer/Fabricator. Extensive concrete fabrication/project management experience.

Our revenue model:

GROW's Revenue Model is expansive. As a world we are just now actively working towards slowing down climate change. Oyster Reefs have been proven to keep up with coastal erosion. The work and understanding the critical position oysters play in our world is understood and GROW's testing is done - let the increased sales begin!


-NGOs doing oyster restoration: The Nature Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, etc.

-Governmental Agencies: Army Corp of Engineers, Resiliant Cities, City Officials.

-Product Specifiers for Coastal Projects:  Civil Engineers, Architects and Landscape Architects.

-Coastal Homeowners who need to protect their property from eroding

-Industrial Coastal Property Owners: UnderArmour; Baltimore, MD

Partnership Potential

Why we are applying to Solve:

GROW's Top Three:

Solve can provide GROW the credentialed backing and further the Hampton Roads and Boston community support and PR amongst our stakeholders. Using both cities as focused cities will also assist them to become the premier, resilient, coastal communities.  

MIT can provide invaluable technical assistance with Augmented Reality and sensors Sensors for Smart Reef Technology and hopefully a collaboration with MIT’s Sea Grant Program to develop stakeholders in the Boston area.

The public interest from the Northeast (Boston, NYC, etc) will assist GROW in connecting with major stakeholders (Billion Oyster Project) and promote fundraising. 

The key barriers for our solution:

SOLVE MIT/RISE backing would greatly assist to propagate GROW’s work into the community with our game-changing, oyster-growing technology designed through biomimcry, inspired by nature, techniques.

Solve has provided a platform, starting with Norfolk's Solveathon, that has inspired GROW to bring together a team of diverse specialists united to work together specifically for the Solve Challenge.

The additional focus of RISE has further facilitated our local team members to focus specifically on our community, Hampton Roads, and the Chesapeake Bay, to concentrate our efforts to develop Norfolk into the premier, resilient, coastal city and to lead by example worldwide.

The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Solvers:

  • Peer-to-Peer Networking
  • Technology Mentorship
  • Connections to the MIT campus
  • Media Visibility and Exposure
  • Preparation for Investment Discussions

Solution Team

  • JB JB
    Julie Bargmann Founder, DIRT studio; Professor of Lanescape Architecture, University of Virginia
  • Dana Goldsmith Hi-Tech Executive
  • David Richards CEO, Concursive Corporation
  • Josef Rieger Deputy Director of Restoration , The Elizabeth River Project
  • Evelyn Tickle Inventor/Owner, Grow Oyster Reefs, llc
  • Brian Williams Production Director, Grow Oyster Reefs, llc.
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