Kelp farming… it’s cleaning the ocean, creating ecosystems, feeding us, fertilizing our crops, and providing the energy we need to fuel our world — could kelp be everything we need?

You didn’t know that piece of seaweed that wrapped around your ankle and scared you the last time you were in the ocean was actually that awesome, now did you?

Kelp is a vegetable that seems to be amazing for just about anything! Farms are popping up (or maybe down?) along the coast as more and more people begin to realize the positive economic and environmental impact this product can have, so let’s dive in and see what it’s all about.

Kelp ribbons being harvested.

Source: Seaweed.ie

Making a Life from the Sea

Bren Smith began his life at sea as a commercial fisherman. It was going well at first; he took pride in providing food for communities, he saw different parts of the world and was able to feed his soul by being out on the ocean. Then fish populations began to decrease from overfishing and the impact it had on the surrounding environments, and the market fell.

So, with fishing no longer a viable option, Bren needed a new plan. But he also needed to be around the sea and to feel like he was really benefitting his community. As it turned out, kelp farming was a perfect substitute.

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Of course, it’s not the same as commercial fishing, but it’s a needed transition. As he told CNN’s Lesley Stahl, “I’m a farmer now. Whether I like it or not, I’m an ocean farmer. And I talk to fishermen about this. I say, ‘Listen. We have to make this transition, that heartbreaking move from being a hunter to a farmer. But what else are the pieces of what it is– sorta to be a fisherman?  It’s to own your own boat, succeed and fail on your own terms, and have the pride of feeding our country. We get to keep those things.'” 1

He and others get to keep those benefits of the job and help clean up the ocean and create products that will keep it clean, all with kelp. The video below from the brilliant SciFri gives us an intro to those benefits and the process the kelp farmers go through to make it all happen!

Via: SciFri  2

Making Kelp Farming a Movement

All of those farmers in that video are a part of, or got their start at GreenWave—an organization started by Bren that describes itself as an “ocean farmer and fisherman-run organization dedicated to building a new blue-green economy that creates jobs, mitigates climate change and grows healthy food for local communities.” 3

Some of his customers include Google’s cafeteria, Yale University and a handful of restaurants and wholesalers. 4

CBS reports that for potential ocean farmers, GreenWave “provides free seed, and guarantees to buy 80% of their harvest for the first two years. He [Bren] estimates that with a $10-thousand to $20-thousand investment and a boat, new farmers can turn a small profit the first year, rising to well over $100-thousand later on.” 5

If you’re interested in kelp farming yourself, or want more information, or want to just chat with them about other possibilities, you can connect through their website: GreenWave.org

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So, what’s 3D Ocean Farming?

If you noticed, Bren calls what he does 3D Ocean Farming and it’s doing a lot more than growing kelp—he’s also growing animals. Mussels hang down in sacks between the kelp, scallops hang next to them, and oysters and clams grow in cages suspended near the ocean floor.

Here’s a quick 10-second clip to explain:

This model focuses on the idea of regenerative farming; where what’s being grown makes the area it’s in healthier and supports biodiversity. 3D Farming encourages the ecosystem around the farm to develop into a thriving entity, giving farmers a more reliable harvest. So, if one crop happens to fail for any reason, they won’t be instantly out of business and lose their income.

For a better look at what led Ben to kelp farming, and all of the benefits of growing these many nitrogen-loving crops, here’s a wonderful video from Disruptive Innovation Festival with the full story.

We all love a product that can be used in multiple ways, and this vegetable is perfect for just that.

Not to mention, a lot of us also seem to have a soft spot for anything and everything that can make us some money… so why not grow some sea-greens to get some green?

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” — Albert Einstein 

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Notes:

  1. “Seaweed Farming and Its Surprising Benefits.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 29 Apr. 2018, www.cbsnews.com/news/seaweed-farming-and-its-surprising-benefits/. Accessed 19 June 2018.
  2. “Kelp: It’s What’s For Dinner.” YouTube, SciFri, 8 June 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BHfHkOoDGA. Accessed 19 June 2018.
  3. “GreenWave.” GreenWave, www.greenwave.org/. Accessed 21 June 2018.
  4. “Seaweed Farming and Its Surprising Benefits.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 29 Apr. 2018, www.cbsnews.com/news/seaweed-farming-and-its-surprising-benefits/. Accessed 19 June 2018.
  5. “Seaweed Farming and Its Surprising Benefits.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 29 Apr. 2018, www.cbsnews.com/news/seaweed-farming-and-its-surprising-benefits/. Accessed 19 June 2018.
  6. “Water Brothers Animation.” Vimeo, GreenWaveORG, 1 June 2017, vimeo.com/219870643. Accessed 19 June 2018.
  7. “3D Ocean Farming.” YouTube, Disruptive Innovation Festival, 14 Nov. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GchLfXTgII. Accessed 19 June 2018.

Samantha Burns

Chief Administrative Officer, Lead Staff Writer

Samantha is a listener, creator, collector of knick knacks and lover of most, if not all, types of cheese.

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