For Webster Pierce of Pierce Industries, saving the Louisiana coast is personal. Pierce won the 2013 Water Challenge Award for an invention he hopes will save threatened Louisiana coastal communities such as Cut Off, where he has lived all his life.
Pierce’s invention, the Wave Robber, is a unique system for combatting wetlands loss. It works to simultaneously prevent and reverse coastal erosion. When struck by a wave, the device sends 80% of the wave’s energy back while collecting the sediment from the water, thus rebuilding the land. In a field test being conducted in conjunction with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the Wave Robber built 6 inches of land in an area that hadn’t gained an inch since the 1930s.
“The end product is that we could possibly save our coast,” said Pierce.
Pierce was one of four finalists presenting a business pitch at Water Challenge Day, which kicked off New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The Water Challenge, a project launched by the Greater New Orleans Foundation in partnership with The Idea Village, is an annual competition that helps discover and support innovative entrepreneurial solutions to how we live and work with water.
Other finalists included ABS Technologies, presenting a smartphone app to trace Louisiana oysters; Erosion Management Solutions, creators of a structural vegetative wall for protecting against erosion; and Water Works, developers of a neighborhood water watch program to collect data on flooding and water pollution. All four finalists have already received six months of entrepreneurial training from the experts at The Idea Village.
As the winner of this year’s Water Challenge, Pierce Industries will receive a $50,000 award to help bring the product to market.
“The award-winning Water Challenge is a national model for encouraging entrepreneurial innovation in integrated water management,” said Marco Cocito-Monoc, Ph.D., director of regional initiatives for the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “The Water Challenge Day during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week offers a powerful platform for the larger community to engage in this vital water movement.”