GREENWAVE 3D - FARMING THE OCEAN SUSTAINABLY
GreenWave 3D is a new, revolutionary and open source ocean farming system that (cl)aims to be „the most sustainable form of food production on the planet'. It was designed to restore ocean ecosystems, mitigate climate change, and create jobs for fishermen – while providing healthy, local food for communities.
As land farming becomes increasingly problematic—be it only because it accounts for a growing portion of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions—and oceans get overfished, humans will need to develop alternative food sources. Nearly 90 percent of large fish stocks are threatened by overfishing, and global per capita fish consumption has doubled since 1960. A recent study suggests that if nothing changes in the way we fish today, we will run out of seafood by 2048, while 3.5 billion people are dependent on the ocean as their primary food source.
GreenWave 3D has the advantage that it is based on a stunningly simple design, and could therefore be implemented at scale, and have an enormous impact. The farms require a minimal initial skill set and low capital costs, since the system involves underwater ropes, hurricane-proof anchors, and differently shaped nets, mussel “socks”, and oyster that can hold huge harvests of kelp and shellfish. Each net houses different species and floats at different depths.The design is shared on an open source basis with fishermen who can produce food, biofuel, fertilizer, animal feed, and cosmetics from their crops. Anyone with 20 acres, a boat, and $20,000 can be up and running within one year.
GreenWave’s crops offer other compelling advantages. The polyculture vertical farming system grows a mix of seaweeds and shellfish that require zero inputs: It is protein-rich, self-sufficient and they even help combat climate change, by sequestering carbon as they grow and rebuilding reef ecosystems.. Each species in the farm is selected to address a particular environmental challenge. Oysters for instance can balance nitrogen level through a natural filtration process, while fast growing seaweed can soak up five times more carbon dioxide than land-based plants."We don't use fertilizers, we don't use antibiotics, we don't use pesticides. I don't even have to feed my stock anything." says Bren Smith, a lifelong commercial fisherman who founded the the nonprofit with Emily Stengel, an expert in sustainable food, and who owns a 20-acre, fully sustainable seafood farm off the coast of Connecticut.
Since the farms sit below the surface and leverage the entire water column, they produce high yields with a small footprint. One acre can produce 250,000 shellfish and 10 tons of kelp, a crop Smith is particularly excited about. "Kelp is like a gateway drug," he says, noting there are possibly thousands of other edible sea plants, many of them with more calcium than milk and more protein than red meat. Kelp can also be used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, livestock feed and biofuel, all while converting tremendous amounts of CO2 into oxygen. "If you covered six percent of the ocean with our farms, you could feed the world and capture all of man's carbon," Smith says.
Smith turned to aquaculture in the 1990s, as the North Atlantic cod stock crashed. Organized seafood farming was supposed to be the answer to overfishing, but Smith discovered it was merely another way of abusing the seas – polluting coastal waterways with pesticides and pumping fish full of antibiotics. "We were growing neither fish nor food," Smith says. "We were running the equivalent of Iowa pig farms at sea." After his oyster farm on Long Island Sound was destroyed by hurricanes, Smith redesigned his infrastructure – growing larvae in tanks on land and then transferring them to "sea socks."
Of course, getting Westerners to center their diet on mollusks and seaweed is a stretch. Still, GreenWave has potential. Its 3D Ocean Farming model was named as one of the 25 Best Inventions of 2017 by TIME Magazine, and GreenWave's Founder, Bren Smith, was named one of 25 People Shaping the Future by Rolling Stone. GreenWave also won the 2015 Fuller Challenge, one of the most important prizes in sustainability, and a 2017 Index: Design to Improve Life award.
It has attracted a growing number of corporate partners, like Google and Patagonia, and hundreds of applicants to GreenWave's 3D ocean-farm development program. GreenWave provides its new farmers with grants, low-cost seed, free outdoor gear, and training for two years. It also promise to purchase 80% of new farmers’ crops over the first five years – at triple the market rate! The crops are then sold to restaurants. The group has helped fishermen establish farms along the coast of New England since 2013, and now has plans to expand in California, the Pacific Northwest and Europe. "We have requests to start farms in every coastal state, and 20 countries," says Smith – more applicants than it can handle at the moment.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis from mid-March to April. New farmers are selected by the end of June. At this time, GreenWave accepts up to ten new farmers into the program each year. "The idea is to actually revive the ocean through our farmingmethods," says Smith, "and make this as affordable as possible for farmers to do themselves – meaning minimal skills and minimal capital costs." And, perhaps most important, putting people to work in a job they can feel good about. "To pit working-class people against environmentalists is the biggest trick," says Smith. "Everyday people can farm the ocean. It's a job that gives people agency and the fulfillment of growing food, while helping to solve some of our world's biggest challenges: climate change and food insecurity“. (mb)