Imagine a vertical underwater garden: seaweed and mussels grow on floating ropes, stacked above oyster and clam cages below. Imagine a farm designed to restore rather than deplete our oceans - a farm growing local food but also biofuel and organic fertilizer.
We're doing it!
Last year we integrated seaweed into our existing shellfish farm, becoming the first 3D ocean farm in Long Island Sound. Although still small scale, our experiment has attracted attention, including from the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker, and NPR.
Now it’s time to scale up
Here’s Why It’s a Game Changer:
As lifelong commercial fishermen, we know our oceans are in trouble. Overfishing has wiped out 90% of large fish; climate change is driving everything from lobsters to whales northward; nitrogen pollution is triggering ever-expanding dead zones.
But we can turn the tide. We've invented a 3D model of ocean farming designed to grow seaweed and shellfish to provide healthy, local food - but also reduce overfishing, help mitigate climate change and restore ocean ecosystems. Here's how:
Eat Like a Fish! Growing Local Food to Reduce Overfishing: We're re-imagining the dinner plate by eating what fish eat: plants. We're cooking up kelp linguini, kelp ice cream - even kelp cocktails - and already on the menu at il Buco, Morimoto's and other elite NYC restaurants. So it's fun, but also healthy: our seaweeds contain more protein than soybeans and more calcium than milk. Plus fish don't make Omega-3’s - they consume them. So by eating like fish, consumers get the same benefits, while reducing pressure on dwindling fish stocks.
Scaled up, the potential impact on our food system is mind-blowing. In a 300’ x 300’ plot we can grow 24 tons of seaweed in 5 months. Creating a network of small seaweed farms equaling the size of Washington State could provide enough protein to feed the world. Of course we’re not all going to become ocean vegetarians, but it shows our model can have a real impact on our stressed food systems.
Restoring Our Oceans: Two years ago while out on the boat, a light bulb went off: We realized that millions of years ago, Mother Nature invented two species - kelp and shellfish - designed to restore ocean ecosystems and mitigate climate change. And these are two species we can grow! Here's how our 3D model is a game-changer:
Climate Change: Carbon is a root cause of acidification, rising water temps and other climate-related threats to our oceans. The kelp we grow -- known as the “rainforest of the sea” -- absorbs five times more carbon than land-based plants. Our 20 acre farm alone has the potential to remove 134 tons of carbon a year. So we're not just fishermen - we're climate farmers.
Water Quality: Shellfish and seaweed act as filters, drawing out nitrogen. While an important nutrient for humans, excess nitrogen from agricultural runoff is creating ever-expanding dead zones in our coastal waters. Kelp and oysters need nitrogen to grow, so our farm - which soaks up to 164 kg of nitrogen a year - is vital for restoring water quality. Then, after we've soaked up the nitrogen, we turn our kelp into liquid fertilizer for local organic farmers.
Biofuel: We’re working with a team of scientists and engineers to grow kelp biofuel. On our farm alone it’s possible to grow up to 2000 gallons of biofuel per acre. According to the US Department of Energy, a network of kelp farms totaling an area ½ the size of Maine could grow enough biofuel to replace all of the oil in the US.
Restoring Habitat: The gear we use - ranging from longlines to underwater cages - function as artificial reefs, attracting over 150 species that come to hide, eat and thrive. After a decade of farming, what was once a barren patch of ocean is now a robust ecosystem. Plus our gear functions as storm surge protectors, helping mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events, like the swamping of NYC by Hurricane Sandy.
Creating Blue-Green Jobs: From Newfoundland to Louisiana, boats are beached and fish plants idled. These communities need blue-green jobs. That's why we’ve designed our model to be replicated so that any person with 20 acres and a boat can start their own 3D farm, then scale up. Every component of our model will be open source and available on the web.
What We Need To Scale Up
We currently have two 150ft longlines growing seaweed and mussels. After over a year of experimenting, we know our design works. Now we need to expand by adding 10 more longlines so we can grow over 26 tonnes of kelp in five months and 60,000 mussels.
Our goal is to raise $30,000 for purchasing and installing these 10 new floating longlines systems. If funded, we will allocate:
$12,000 for buying anchors and chain systems strong enough to withstand hurricanes;
$3,000 for buoys, lines and other gear;
$8,000 for installation and labor; and
$7,000 for licensing fees and marine engineering consulting services.
If we beat our $30,000 goal and raise $50,000 we will create an educational program to train the next generation of 3D ocean farmers. Then we'll take our model on the road, as a catalyst for the creation of a network of local ocean farms, growing food-fuel-fertilizer while reducing carbon emissions and restoring our ocean ecosystems. Imagine seaweed and shellfish integrated into wind farms, fish plants re-opened to process restorative food and coal plants re-purposed to process kelp biofuel.
But we need your help. Together we can save our seas and ourselves. Join us to jump start the blue revolution!
What's for Dinner?
Risks and challenges
Possible delays: Licensing is always a challenge. We were the first vertical ocean farm granted permits in Long Island Sound -- and it took 3 years. However, we have already completed a round of meetings with state regulators - who have guaranteed that amending our permit will take less than 6 months.
The other challenge with ocean farming is extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy. To mitigate potential damage we have budgeted for a design that can withstand hurricane-level winds.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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