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A Small Business in Montana Just Won $1.5 Million for Ocean Health Technology

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A small business in the landlocked state of Montana just won a big award for developing reliable, cost-effective technology to monitor the health of our oceans.

XPRIZE
The Sunburst Sensors team working during the competition.

Missoula, Mont.-based Sunburst Sensors won $1.5 million last night for its pH sensors, which measure ocean acidification. Acidification is a problem; as we burn coal for energy, a portion of the carbon released into the atmosphere ends up in our oceans, changing the chemical conditions of the oceans and threatening their stability. Scientists generally rely on sensors to test pH and monitor ocean health. Sunburst’s sensors are 10 to 15 times cheaper to manufacture than others of their kind, and just as accurate.

The $1.5 million prize came in the form of two first-place awards: one for accuracy and another for affordability. The competition was managed by innovation organization XPRIZE and funded by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google’s Eric Schmidt and president of The Schmidt Family Foundation, which invests in clean technology.

Related: Exploring the Deep Ocean With Underwater Robots

“I am delighted that the innovations coming out of this competition will meet the needs of scientists helping us to understand better how connected our life is to the health of the ocean,” said Schmidt in a statement.

A total of $2 million in prize money was distributed among the competition’s five finalists.

To learn more about the issue of ocean acidification and the competition, have a look at the video below. 

Related: This Startup Wants to Reverse the Tide on Our Overfished Oceans

Catherine Clifford

Written By

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.