The Puerto Rican coastline has been in retreat for decades due to rising sea levels. And as water levels rise, causing severe erosion, many Puerto Ricans living on the coast watch their homes fall into the sea.
But a small software company in Puerto Rico called Terra Firma, founded in 2019 by islander Alejandro Mieses, uses satellite data to dynamically predict accurate erosion pain points that could help Puerto Rican city planners better protect their beautiful island in their fight against climate change.
“The problem right now with environmental assessment is that the data is scattered across multiple federal data sets,” Mieses says. “There is no database intended to unify them. So Terra Firma’s first mission is to actually unite that data in a way that is usable.”
The company has developed an easy-to-use software interface that enables environmental scientists, construction professionals and government agencies to create models to predict down to one meter environmental risks, such as erosion, landslides, flooding, solar exposure and wind-related risks.
Terra Firma’s software is like Google Maps on steroids. Rather than just providing the user with a snapshot of a particular geographic region, Terra Firma’s software collects data from 1941 to the present and tracks the environmental risks mentioned above.
And with an almost video game style interface, the software allows users to easily predict up to 30 years of potential damage and erosion by changing just a few settings. These kinds of forecasts were previously available exclusively for projects with a budget large enough to hire a team of engineers to collect and process the data. Now that power is back in the hands of the people and communities interested in protecting their own land.
Since the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico has made every effort to rebuild a stronger and fortified island. And with data that can predict precise instances of flooding and erosion, Puerto Rican city planners can better prepare for intense weather events similar to Hurricane Maria.
An example of an organization working with Terra Firma to better protect the island from erosion and flooding is Blue Tide Puerto Rico.
Blue Tide Puerto Rico is an NGO dedicated to ocean science and research and to promoting and preserving Puerto Rico’s blue economy. After Hurricane Maria destroyed many of the coral reefs that act as a natural barrier protecting the coastline from erosion and flooding, Blue Tide has contracted Terra Firma to design 3D-printed tiles to be installed and serve as an erosion-limiting strategy to mitigate future storm surges. combat and protect the coast.
“We have identified Terra Firma as an asset because it is a start-up company with young guys who are able to work with our request with a fresh new design and with the concept of minimizing the environmental impact of construction”, said Wilbert De La Paz, executive director of Blue Tide Puerto Rico.
Thousands of coral tiles are slated to be 3D printed and installed along the coast of Puerto Rican cities that experienced coral reef loss during Maria. The coral tiles are made of clay and form a cylinder that serves as a nest for organic baby coral plugs. Mieses thinks that within ten years the clay cylinder will dissolve, leaving behind a completely fused organic coral reef.
This coral reef replacement will hopefully act as the first of many successful erosion mitigation strategies that can help Terra Firma build to better protect the island from increasingly powerful weather conditions.
“The way Terra Firma is bringing hope to a hurricane-prone Puerto Rico provides the insights to be better prepared for future incomings,” Mieses says, “to understand who is at risk, what part of our critical natural infrastructure and gray infrastructure is.” at risk and how to better protect them.” Terra Firma currently operates exclusively in Puerto Rico, but they plan to expand into the southern United States in the coming years.
Published on June 23, 2022