Sea Vegetables Are the Future of Farming

Sea Vegetables Are the Future of Farming

Madeleine Traynor
|February 23, 2022

kelp in water

Kelp is nutritious and may be farmed with comparatively low impression on the atmosphere. Photo: Jonathan Kriz 

Seaweed salad has by no means appealed to me.

I used to be extremely skeptical once I first learn that kelp is the brand new kale. How might a slimy saltwater plant change the curly crowd-pleaser that foodies take residence from farmers markets in bagfuls?

I’ve spent practically half of the final decade farming. On land, that’s. I studied sustainable agriculture as a result of I perceive the hurt the fashionable industrial farming system is wreaking on our planet. I consider meals needs to be grown in a regenerative means that offers again greater than it takes from the earth.

While I don’t assume there may be one proper method to farm, I do consider there’s a incorrect method to farm.

Large-scale monocultures — unnatural farming programs that domesticate a single crop — depend on excessive inputs of fertilizers, pesticides, and antibiotics which are polluting our waterways, depleting our soil well being, and producing meals that lacks dietary worth. Small-scale regenerative farms, alternatively, are rising a various array of crops, constructing soil, creating habitats for pollinators, sequestering carbon, growing meals entry, and cultivating communities.

For a very long time, I’ve thought-about aquaculture — so-called “farmed fish” on the grocery retailer — as being a part of the identical harmful class of business agriculture. And I nonetheless do. Monocultures of genetically engineered fish have plagued our water system with many of those similar issues linked to industrial land-based farms.

There is, nonetheless, one other method to farm the seas.

Small-scale regenerative ocean farms look very totally different from their land-based equivalents. Bren Smith, proprietor of Thimble Island Ocean Farm and founding father of Connecticut-based nonprofit GreenWave, has developed a 3D ocean farming system. Put merely, the vertical design is an underwater backyard that’s anchored in place with a system of vertical and horizontal strains, lantern nets, and cages rising a mixture of kelp, mussels, oysters, amongst different sea greens and shellfish.

Farming on land, even when utilizing essentially the most regenerative practices, has inputs. Fertilizers, feed, and contemporary water, clearly. Plastics and steel are required for irrigation and weed suppression. Energy can also be crucial, typically within the type of fossil fuels.

As a farmer, what I discover most spectacular concerning the small-scale mannequin of restorative ocean farming is the shortage of damaging inputs. With ocean farming, the ocean water and the solar appear to do the heavy lifting.

Farming sea greens and shellfish with the help of mom nature has the potential to make a significant impression as a local weather answer. Small-scale regenerative ocean farms are offering a nutritious meals supply, creating jobs, and restoring our coasts. Sea greens are being grown as biofuels, bioplastics, and an additive to cattle feed that assist cut back methane emissions from cows.

Impressively, kelp can also be getting used to seize and retailer each carbon and nitrogen. Running Tide, a Maine-based startup, has been prototyping a system that sequesters carbon by way of microforests of macroalgae, similar to kelp, that develop so giant they ultimately sink to the ocean flooring. There, the purpose is for the carbon within the seaweed to develop into buried in deep-sea sediment and thus faraway from the short-term carbon cycle.

Shellfish are equally awe-inspiring. Oyster reefs improve coastal resilience by limiting storm surge. Bivalves have the capability to filter the water round them by eradicating pollution as they feed. This can embrace eradicating extra nitrogen from the water which is commonly a results of fertilizer runoff from industrial farming practices. Billion Oyster Project, a New York-based nonprofit, is restoring oyster reefs to scale back flooding, filter water, and forestall shoreline erosion in New York Harbor.

Any progress business isn’t any stranger to challenges. There are considerations concerning the impacts of ocean farming. If the business grows too quick, will large-scale monocultures of kelp overcrowd marine ecosystems and coastlines? New laws could also be crucial to guard native species and coastal communities.

There may additionally be a provide and demand concern if sea greens and different merchandise aren’t built-in into our economic system on the similar price that land farmers and fisherwomen and males transition to the commerce. With cautious planning, thought, and the proper management, these potential issues appear surmountable for an answer that has a lot to supply each folks and the planet.

GreenWave is main the cost. With modern farm designs, an intensive farmer coaching program, and a web based hub supporting small-scale restorative ocean farmers, they’re shortly and thoughtfully constructing a nationwide community of kelp farmers who’re implementing local weather options, strengthening coastlines, and growing meals safety.

There are 1000’s of sea vegetation and animals that may very well be incorporated into our meals system. In some ways, we’re simply starting to scratch the floor. The query stays, is our society prepared for nutrient-rich sea greens and shellfish to take up more room in our diets?

For the sake of our local weather, I feel I’ll give seaweed salad an opportunity.

Madeleine Traynor is a graduate scholar within the M.A. in Climate and Society program on the Columbia Climate School. Her background in land-based regenerative agriculture and nonprofit communications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History and Geography in addition to a certificates in Sustainable Farming from the University of Vermont.

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