Crafting Collaboration to Save the Seas
On 4 January 2013 by Shabnam Anvar

From opensource to open hardware, collaborative research, biomimicry and environmentalism Cesar Harada brings all these emerging currents together as inventor, environmentalist and entrepreneur. Last October he gave his 9th OuiShare talk in Paris.

Just like in his numerous Ted Talks (video below), Cesar Harada took his audience on a journey to the realm of environmental solutions and revealed its challenges and opportunities in his OuiShare talk in October 2012. The son of a Franco-Japanese couple, he believes “that ocean currents, the wind and other naturally-occurring phenomenon can provide unique inspiration and novel solutions to mankind’s worst disasters, like oil spills and radioactive leaks.”

Open-source solutions

A few years back, Cesar was stuck in an MIT lab building oil spill cleaning drones with pre-defined technology owned by those financing his lab. He quit. Why? The technology was not optimal and it was patented. “If you are developing environmental technology, you want to make sure it is going to reach the greatest number at the lowest cost possible, as fast as possible,” says César. That’s why he headed to New Orleans, where he worked with The Louisiana Bucket Brigade to map the Gulf of Mexico spill. At the same time, he began designing Protei – an open source sailing drone.


Current oil skimming methods fail to collect the majority of the oil when it is spilled, require oil powered boats and expose workers to incredibly toxic materials, reducing their life expectancy. Protei is being developed to address these issues by creating an autonomous sailing vessel that drags a long tail behind itself which absorbs the oil. Health hazards are avoided since human interaction with the vessel is restricted to manning a remote control that can be operated from a distance.

After putting the vessel through a number of innovative design steps, Protei’s bow rudder now resembles a fish, allowing it to twist and bend. “Fish — and their shape-shifting bodies — existed long before humans, so we know we’re on the right track,” says Cesar.

Driven by community

Since its development, Protei has grown into an international “community generated project”, coordinated by him. Makers, sailors, engineers and scientists from Korea to Mexico have helped develop Protei as an open source hardware technology by posting improvements on the DIY and maker site Instructables, hacking each other’s solutions to improve each model and solve each other’s problems. The fact that the community is so involved in this project is perhaps its greatest achievement, since this enables it to progress much more quickly than if only one person was working on it.

Cesar’s undefiable vision

Initially crafted to clean oil spills, the potential of Protei is endless: from filtering plastic from the sea, to measuring nuclear radiation in Fukoshima. To make sure that every cent he had is used for the project, Cesar didn’t hesitate to build and live in a yurt tent looking over the city of London for 6 months.

Cesar’s vision combined with his hands-on trial and error approach is an inspiration to many. “Never be smart all the time”, he advises. “Make mistakes, you will grow from them.”

César Harada

Photo Credit: Moritz Steiger (, on Flickr

The Protei adventure sails full steam in 2013

Protei has been chosen for a sea trip from Januay to April 2013 by the Unreasonable Institute and will be mentored by an astounding group of world-class entrepreneurs and leaders including Matt Mullenweg (WordPress), Nobel Peace Laureate and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Vice President of Business Development at Google Megan Smith and many more. During this journey Protei will sail around the world for 4 months from San Diego, to Ensenada in Mexico, then to Hawaii, Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and will debark in Spain on April 28th 2013 ….This will enable Protei to test the drone on plastic pollution in the sea. To follow the trip, check out Unreasonable at Sea.

Photo Credit:  PaternitéPas d'utilisation commercialePartage selon les Conditions Initiales - Moritz Steiger

Shabnam Anvar OuiShare backer: I believe in the dynamics generated by the OuiShare Community. I am an everyday superconnector and sharing enthusiast. My drive : blog, consult, teach to share and promote sustainable ideas & solutions. Profile →

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