Bren Smith is the founder of GreenWave, an organization that supports, teaches and advocates for a sustainable blue-green future through ocean farming, and is an ocean farmer himself. To Smith, Ocean Farming is a key regenerative solution with environmental benefits that we need to pursue in order to tackle climate change.
How Ocean Farming Works
Restorative ocean farms grow a variety of seaweeds such as kelp and dulce, along with shellfish including oysters, mussels, scallops and clams, which are filter feeders that help contribute to the improvement of water quality. Production of these seagreens and shellfish feed the ecosystem, absorbing carbon as well as providing food and shelter for wild life. Ocean farmers can grow crops efficiently with the aid of low-tech ropes and buoys, as well as high-tech under water drones. A variety of seaweed can be grown by layering ropes at different depths suited for each species. Kelp alone can grow 6-12 feet in three months, absorbing more carbon with each foot.
Bren Smith spoke with us on the benefits of Ocean Farming for our project on the future of taste, the following is a transcript of his interview. For more of the mechanics of ocean farming visit greenwave.org.
The following interview has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
Beyond Sustainability into Regeneration
Bren Smith: Unlike land-based crops, seaweed is zero-input food — it requires no additional fresh water, fertilizer, pesticides, feed or soil to grow. It receives everything it needs from the sun and the sea.”
Making it hands down the most sustainable form of food production on the planet at the same time.
We need to regenerate. We need to farm our seas.
“But is that going to look like salmon farming? I used to work on the salmon farms up in northern Canada, and that was just taking all the mistakes of land based agriculture and replicating them out in the ocean. Essentially, Iowa pig farms at sea, you know, polluting food that tasted terrible.
Only 30 percent of the carbon emissions put out by humans have been sequestered by the oceans. 90 percent of the heat is held in the in the oceans, it is the regulator. So we need to create a relationship in order to support it, to continue to be an answer to climate change.
Ocean Farming Growth
We created the nonprofit GreenWave to train the next generation. And we have a waiting list to this point of over 4000 farmers from over 100 countries.
The demand exists to farm but it will take investment to continue growth. There’s this thing called the Valley of Death, where great solutions are not investable yet because there needs to be all these things sorted out and they’re high risk. And right now, a lot of investors don’t have the right risk appetite to solve climate change. So the non profit role is really to play this trusted actor, hold the vision of this new industry and really bring it from an incubator stage into something that’s replicable and scalable in the market.
We’re all sort of stuck in these silver bullet solutions. Rather than saying the answer is solar, or the answer is cutting coal, it’s really about bundling solutions. We need thousands of solutions all working at once, and new insights and learnings will come out of those solutions.
We need a thousand flowers to bloom, not one rocket ship flying to mars.