Coral Vita Wins Earthshot Prize

A commercial land-based coral farm founded by YSE alumni Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern recently won the inaugural Earthshot Prize, which supports innovative solutions to the climate crisis.

coral vita-earthshot
Sam Teicher (center left) and Gator Halpern (center right) celebrate winning with Earthshot Prize with the Coral Vita team. Credit: Harry Lee/Coral Vita

Coral Vita, the world’s first commercial land-based coral farming company for reef restoration founded by Sam Teicher ’15 MEM and Gator Halpern ’15 MEM, was named a winner of the inaugural Earthshot Prize, a new global environmental prize that provides financial backing to scale up innovative solutions to the climate crisis.

Coral Vita was one of three finalists in the “Revive Our Oceans” category, and was one of five winners of the £1 million grand prize awarded by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, who established the award competition.

“It’s the honor of our lives to have Coral Vita’s work and the global fight to protect coral reefs uplifted by winning the Earthshot Prize,” says Teicher. “We look forward to scaling our efforts around the world and collaborating with local communities, scientists, governments, the private sector, and innovators to protect the ecosystems that sustain us all.”

Since 1970, more than 30% of the world’s coral reefs have died and, in the coming decades, experts estimate more than 90% could disappear. The Bahamas-based Coral Vita aims to grow coral species that are resilient to changing ocean conditions — at a rate up to 50 times faster than traditional growth methods.

The company hopes its methods could potentially supply coral for an entire country with just a single farm and envisions the Earthshot prize jumpstarting this effort to rebuild reefs across the world.

“Sam and I have known since we were teenagers that we wanted to devote our lives to the environmental movement,” Halpern recently told People. “This award is an incredible way to really elevate the conversation around climate destabilization and use the influence that Prince William and really the rest of the prize council has to show how important an issue this is."

Both men arrived at YSE with experience in marine biology — Teicher, a Yale College alumnus, had participated in coral farming in Mauritius and Halpern had worked on fish farming and environmental restoration in the Peruvian Amazon. The two launched Coral Vita as YSE students, using seed funding from the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. They’ve since won numerous prizes and plaudits for their work, including recognition from the XPRIZE Ocean Initiative, the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and the UN Young Champions of the Earth Prize.

The five Earthshot winners were chosen from three nominees in five categories. One of the nominees in the “Protect and Restore Nature” category, Restor, was founded by former YSE postdoctoral fellow Thomas Crowther and is headed by CEO Clara Rowe ’15 MEM. Sanergy, co-founded by Yale College alumnus David Auerbach, was also a finalist in the "Build a Waste-Free World" category.