Seagriculture Speaker

Seagriculture USA

6 - 7 September 2023

Portland, ME, USA

High-performance, low-cost, eco-friendly helical anchors for kelp farming

Zach Backas, Co-founder, CEO, Holdfast Robotics

About the speaker:

Zach Backas is a naval architect + marine engineer who’s built a career at the cutting edge of ocean innovation. After graduating from Webb Institute, Zach spent time at Principle Power doing naval architecture and structural design for the WFA and WF1 floating offshore wind platforms, and worked as a hydrofoil design consultant for several marine technology companies, including Fliteboard. Zach now serves as the CEO of Holdfast Robotics.

Company info: 

Holdfast Robotics is a marine robotics company helping to build the Blue Economy, starting with low-cost anchor installation. Holdfast Robotics has developed + patented a unique ROV that enables rapid + cost-effective installation of high-performance, eco-friendly helical anchors with sub-meter precision. Helical anchors are an ideal anchor choice for aquaculture applications, enabling taut moorings with low scope angles and zero anchor chain. Developed to drastically lower kelp farm installation costs, Holdfast Robotics’ anchoring process is well-suited for installation of large-scale anchor arrays in challenging environments. Holdfast Robotics offers helical anchor installation services for customers worldwide, and is currently installing anchors up to 5-tons in depths up to 200m.


As the seaweed industry grows, kelp farms are growing in acreage and venturing further into deep water and remote locations. These large-scale installations require high-performance + cost effective foundations that can be built accurately at scale and practically with limited resources. Helical anchors are the high-performance, cost-effective, and eco-friendly anchor type that is ideal for this application, though historically their difficult installation has hampered their adoption. Holdfast Robotics has developed the SeaDriver™, a unique helical anchor installation tool, that helps farmers significantly reduce their anchoring costs. The Holdfast Robotics SeaDriver™ enables rapid installation of helical anchors in deep water with sub-meter precision. This technology makes anchor installation possible without the need for large boats, complex hydraulic systems, or human divers in the water.


1) When was the first time you got involved with seaweeds and why?

I first became involved with seaweed through the ARPA-e MARINER program in 2021. I was investigating marine climate tech and became fascinated by the ocean's potential for food production.

2) What is your view on the US seaweed industry in 2030?

By 2030, the US seaweed industry will be capable of producing high volumes of low-cost seaweed that may begin to compete with land-grown commodity crops.

3) What will you be talking about at Seagriculture USA 2023?

I'm speaking about mooring and anchoring for seaweed farms. As the seaweed industry grows, large offshore farms will require high-performance + cost effective anchoring. Helical anchors are ideal for this application, and Holdfast Robotics has developed a unique installation tool that helps farmers significantly reduce their anchoring costs.