By Faran Fagen
Her vision was to collect mass amounts of sargassum washing up on beaches before they rotted and use the piles as sustainable material in a not-so-sustainable fashion industry.
“Instead of using other materials that create waste and contain toxins, sargassum can be used as a renewable resource,” said Ava Detassis, a senior at Florida Atlantic University High School in Boca Raton.
Detassis and schoolmate Kezia Abraham, a sophomore, recently won awards from the Guy Harvey Foundation, which collaborates with local, national and international organizations to conduct scientific research and provides funding to affiliated researchers who share this objective.
Ocean Exchange, a leader in supporting the acceleration of innovative solutions for healthy oceans and the sustainable blue economy, announced the awards.
Detassis, of Boynton Beach, earned the 2023 Guy Harvey Foundation and Ocean Exchange Conservation Award of $1,000 and Nexus Art Award of $500 for her proposal, “Sarcasm for Sargassum: A Fashion Brand Sustained by Sargassum.”
Abraham, also of Boynton, took home the 2023 Guy Harvey Foundation and Ocean Exchange Scholar Award of $500 for her proposal “Use of Sargassum as a Formidable Agricultural Biofertilizer and Ruminant Feed.”
Detassis’ concept is to create a line that utilizes sargassum in the thread, dye and packaging materials of fashion.
Ava’s ’Don’t be a Crab’ shirt features this design with a Florida blue crab.
Her shirt design for Sarcasm for Sargassum included a Florida blue crab and the phrase “Don’t be a Crab.’’
“The goal of Sarcasm for Sargassum is to provide a humorous and potentially educational clothing brand to fellow ocean lovers, while also providing another sustainable option in the fashion industry,” Detassis said. Abraham’s theory explains that sargassum-based fertilizers may help reduce the amount of farmland needed for livestock and usage of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. It enriches the soil, allowing crops to grow organically, and the feed acts as a diet supplement, making these uses of sargassum cost-effective products that can counteract global warming. Sargassum is also easier to digest than current diets for livestock and provides all necessary nutrients.
“This project was a great passion of mine, as I love the environment and I want to help the community and our world,” Abraham said. “Helping our community goes further than maintaining our environment, a passion which I explore and want to explore as a physician.”
Abraham is dually enrolled at FAU and plans to major in biology and attend medical school, practicing as an orthopedic surgeon.
Abraham realized that the sargassum build-up on beaches was so plentiful that it almost looked like a field of grass. She thought to herself, why can’t it be? Ocean creatures eat seaweed like ruminants eat grass, so seaweed can be manipulated to imitate modern ruminant feed. And this feed can solve other problems faced in agriculture.
“It is so important for us to inspire, educate and engage the next generation of marine conservationists, and that’s what we aspire to do with the GHF Conservation Scholar and Nexus Art Awards,” Guy Harvey Foundation CEO Jessica Harvey said. “Kezia’s proposal aligns perfectly with our mission of finding solutions to conservation through scientific research. Both students are so dedicated to conservation and sustainability.”
As for Detassis, Harvey said, “I love that Ava combined sustainability and fashion in her proposal, since our brand is committed to making products that contribute to ocean conservation and marine education and, like her, we are focused on making responsible apparel that consumers can feel good about wearing.”
Detassis is contemplating a bachelor’s in architecture or interior design with a possible minor or double-major in studio art at a university in Florida.
“I’ve always been interested in design and different uses for creativity, but also the way our infrastructure affects the environment,” Detassis said. P
For more information on the Guy Harvey Foundation, visit https://guyharveyfoundation.org. Follow the foundation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @GuyHarveyOcean.