Some of the latest inventions were conceived right here in Ventura County, including skateboards made from recycled fishing nets, grip holders for those with arthritis and people who have lost limbs, and a vertical pool that can aid in recovery for wounded veterans, the physically challenged and the elderly.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the most recent inventions created by local residents that are making a positive difference.

Recycled Fishing Nets

Bureo Team in Chile with recycled net sunglasses

Discarded fishing nets make up an estimated 10 percent of plastic in the ocean and have been found to be four times more harmful than all other forms of plastic pollution.

Bureo, based in the United States and Chile, is focused on finding solutions for the growing issue of plastic pollution in our oceans and initiating social change.

This is achieved through Bureo’s Net+Positiva program, which works together with fishermen to provide a positive solution for their end-of-life fishing gear, which Bureo transforms into highly recyclable and durable raw materials.

“Our first product constructed from recycled fishing nets was a cruiser skateboard, [composed] of over 30 square feet of recycled fishing nets,” said David Stover of Ventura, Bureo’s co-founder and CEO. “We now make a number of products from recycled fishing nets.”

Others involved with the invention include Ben Kneppers, Kevin Ahearn and Greg Swienton.

This invention provides a solution to the most harmful form of plastic pollution in our ocean, noted Stover, who became aware of the impacts while surfing in Australia and Indonesia, and started on a mission to find a way to make a difference.

In 2013, Bureo founded Chile’s first fishing net collection and recycling program, Net+Positiva, with the mission to provide fishermen access to fishnet waste disposal points along the coast of Chile as a means to prevent ocean pollution.

“We are showing the value in previously discarded waste,” Stover said. “By utilizing recycled fishing nets to construct premium products, we are building long-life products with end-of-life solutions.”

For instance, Bureo joined forces with Costa Sunglasses to incorporate recycled fishing nets into a new line of “responsible” sunglasses. Featuring Costa’s patented 580 polarized lens technology in four new styles, the Untangled Collection frames are constructed from 100 percent recycled fishing nets and are fit with mineral glass lenses — avoiding the use of any new plastic materials.

To recycle nets into sunglasses, discarded fishing nets are collected from commercial fishing ports, and Bureo recycles the nets down into a raw material in the form of pellets. The pellets are then molded into The Untangled Collection sunglass frames.

Additionally, Jenga® Ocean™ is the first board game made from recycled fishing nets. Jenga Ocean is made from more than 25 square feet of nets sourced through Bureo’s Net Positiva recycling program.

Players of the game, which features threatened marine animal block designs, are encouraged to “save the animals” through special edition rules. By learning about the damaging impact of discarded fishing nets, which account for 10 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean, it is hoped that players will gain an understanding of how discarded nets are harming marine animals, and learn about what they can do to help.

Above all, “We aim to provide a tangible solution to keep discarded fishing nets out of our ocean and inspire people around the world to join the fight against plastic pollution,” Stover said.

For more information, visit https://bureo.co/

EazyHold Grip Assists

Invented in 2014, EazyHold is the first and only silicone grip aid that gives people with limited or no grasp — due to challenges like finger or limb loss — the ability to hold anything, from items as small as a baby spoon to a boat oar.

EazyHold was invented by Kerry Mellin, along with her business partners and sisters, Merrily Mellin and Wendy Mellin, who all live in Simi Valley.

“Made of super adaptable soft stretchy silicone, it’s the first and only grip assist that helps you to get an effortless, reliable hold on anything that requires a firm grasp and a repetitive motion,” Kerry Mellin explained.

These include things like eating utensils, cups and baby bottles, sports equipment, garden implements, musical instruments, kitchen and household tools — just about anything.

“While there are a few other grip assists on the market, they are all made with materials that are not sanitary nor easy to clean, and can harbor and transmit bacteria,” Kerry said.

“We are the first and only universal cuff that’s made of superhygienic food-grade silicone, which can be easily washed and dried at high temperatures, or cleaned with a disinfectant wipe, so that it can be used and reused by multiple people,” she noted. “This makes it perfect for settings where hygiene is crucial, such as hospitals, schools and convalescent and home care.”

The inspiration behind the invention came about in 2014 during her annual family ranch party in Simi Valley.

“I found myself having a hard time gripping onto the broom because of the arthritis in my thumbs and each sweep became more painful,” Kerry recalled.

As a lifelong cowgirl, she hated to think that simply sweeping out her barn would be something she could no longer do, “so with family due to arrive shortly, I grabbed some duct tape, made a sticky loop across the broom handle and slipped my hand inside.”

Surprised at how effortless it felt, having this little bit of support over the back of her hand allowed her to maintain control of the broom with minimal grip — and a lot less pain.

“Later at the party I told my sisters about having to tape my hand to the broom — it gave us all a good laugh but we realized in that moment that it wasn’t really a laughing matter,” she said.

With a history of arthritis in her family, “We also recognized the huge population of baby boomers on the horizon, all with the same issue and all wanting to stay active and engaged in life.”

With that, “We decided right then and there to innovate a new grip aid for all kinds of activities in and out of the house, and for all shapes and sizes of people and equipment,” she said. “So with great excitement for our new idea, we started working on prototypes the very next day.”

What started as simply a way to help people with arthritis evolved into so much more.

Because Eazyhold is inexpensive and requires no learning curve, “When we now visit hospitals, therapy and pediatric centers, we’ve found that our EazyHolds are becoming a staple … for rehabilitation of those with cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, stroke, limb loss, spinal injuries and many other disabilities that cause poor fine motor skills and limit a person’s grip,” Kerry Mellin said.

For adults, being able to do for one self allows for a full, dignified, independent life, she further emphasized.

“But most profoundly is the difference we see we are making to children in the special-needs classroom,” she said.

“Many classrooms cannot afford all the supplies they need no matter how little the cost,” she added, “so our ultimate goal is to be able to inexpensively provide a bucket of EazyHolds for every classroom who needs them, and for every child that can’t independently hold a spoon or a crayon — or even an action figure — without a little help.”

For more information, visit https://eazyhold.com/

The Vertical Pool

The Vertical Pool was inspired by the anticipated need of the returning wounded veterans of all past conflicts — as well as any and all physically challenged — who have limited options for recovery, healing and hygiene.

The verticality aspect is the No. 1 virtue of this DME (durable medical equipment) device, said Peter G. Hold, who conceived the idea in 2005 as a concept on paper, and sold the first pool in 2011.

For those with limited mobility, he said, getting vertical in part of each day is critical to recovery as the body heals best when the spine, organs, muscles, tendons and ligaments are suspended upright in a state of traction — which is achieved in water.

“Imagine someone confined to a wheelchair having the ability to get upright in water for any number of movements — legs down, shoulders back, chest out, head up,” said Hold, a resident of Ventura who also owns property in Colorado.

Additionally, soaking in sanitized warm water daily could reduce hygienic issues for those who have difficulty accessing a shower or bath.

“It may mean the difference between the positive of pain-relief exercise-wellbeing and the negative of frustration-depression-stagnation,” Hold said. “Healing pools should be available to every veteran without convoluted forms and wait times. Simply a doctor’s prescription should make one eligible for immediate consideration.”

The beaches of Ventura County were Hold’s “office” for the development of this innovation.

“I walked miles processing the ins and outs, ups and downs and nuances,” he remembered. “Without Ventura, this device would probably not exist.”

The parts of the pool are molded in Southern California, and the plumbing comes from Waterway Plastics in Oxnard.

Comprising of multiple light-weight parts, which can be crated and shipped anywhere in the world, this pool can be carried into or through existing structures and installed in garages, backyards and basements — and even hillsides.

This versatile pool is also efficient in energy, water and space at 6-feet, 2-inches wide by 12 feet long, including the entry steps at the stern, and is under 900 gallons. Features include overhead and underwater grab bars, Hoyer lift access/egress capability and a swim-in-place support frame.

Additionally, “The design allows parents, partners, etc., to work with the patient from the outside perimeter of the pool,” Hold said. For instance, “If junior wants to be in the water for three hours, mom can sit beside, but outside the water.”

Interestingly, while the vertical pool was created with veterans of any and all conflicts in mind, the market has turned out to be women, Hold noted.

“Ninety percent of calls are from women,” he said.

Over the past few years, Hold has contacted several women’s organizations in the Ventura area about assembling a collective of women, veterans and veterans’ wives to take over this product vision and nonprofit mission.

“As one person, I can’t handle the potential market load,” Hold said. “I’ve put over 500,000 miles on my pickups in the last seven years.”

Women can handle every aspect of this product/vision and nonprofit mission, he emphasized. None of the modular components comprising this pool are too cumbersome for two women to carry, load, offload and install.

“Onsite assembly takes less than six hours,” Hold said. “This pool is essentially an interlocking erector set.”

Imagine a collective of women forming a new company around an existing product, he noted.

“We are seeking the start-up capital to form this objective, the women-power to implement it and the professional guidance to assist in constructing a successful business plan,” Hold said. “If you can help in any of these areas or have ideas on how to move this forward, please do jump in.”

For more information, call 928-300-9800 ; email info@vetpools.org; or visit www.theverticalpool.com.