No Fresh Water, No Fertilizer. Introducing Ocean Farming by Bren Smith

In this day and age when climate change and the environment is of deep concern to put it mildly and some of the powerful refuse to acknowledge the fact, there […]

In this day and age when climate change and the environment is of deep concern to put it mildly and some of the powerful refuse to acknowledge the fact, there is Bren Smith the founder of Greenwave, a nonprofit organization, who has brought in original, inventive and ingenious methods to farming to contribute towards making the our Earth more livable. We have this opportunity to interview him.

Mr. Smith could you tell us about “Greenwave Reefs”. What are these and how to they work?

GreenWave Reefs

GreenWave Reefs are our way of replicating our 3D Ocean farming model. Each reef is made up of 25-50 small scale ocean farms, a land-based hatchery + processing hub, and a ring of institutional buyers and entrepreneurs developing value-added products.

It is said with massive outputs you leave behind a tiny footprint. Please explain this for our readers.

Scalable impact

According to the world bank, farming less than 5% of US waters could produce the protein equivalent to 3 trillion cheeseburgers, sequester 135 million tons of carbon, create 50 million new jobs, and feeding cattle kelp based feed can reduce methane output by 90%. Restorative ocean farms provide large amounts of food and ecosystem services and require zero inputs – no fresh water, no fertilizer, no feed. Ocean farms also provide habitats for marine life and protection for coastlines from storm surges.

Are these pilot projects you are working on or are these actual farming facilities?

GreenWave has trained and supported over 50 farmers – all at different stages of their farming journey. All of these folks have goals to have working farms in the water if they don’t already have a farm running.

How many such facilities have been ‘installed’ already?

We’ve trained and supported over 50 farmers, and there are folks outside of our immediate network ocean farming deploying variations of similar ocean farming designs. 

What was your motivation?

Grist (2016): This “Ocean Farmer” Could Make You Hopeful About the Future of the Sea

Bren Smith – Harvesting Oysters

You have said climate change is going to make us eat zero input foods in time to come. Could you elaborate this point in all its seriousness?

Climate change is making it harder and harder to farm on land. With temperatures rising, weather becoming more unpredictable, and soils being degraded – land agriculture yields will drop and be unable to support the growing population. Ocean farming is a solution to supplement this demand.

Our readers are mainly the youth from different parts of the world. Could you please explain how a farm can be started based on your model and what would be the capital requirement, in terms of money and labour?

$20,000, 20 acres, and a boat can get anyone started! These figures and the process varies from each farm and farmer. This depends on access to equipment, farm design (different species need different kinds of equipment and setups), and different places have variations in policies and permits to get a farm up and running.

Bren Smith – Making Kelp

What are the returns?

A farm at full capacity, growing a variety of species (varying combinations of kelp, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops) can net $90K-$120K – this will depend on the farm location and kinds of markets the products are being sold to.

Our readers look up to achievers such as yourself for inspiration. A word of advice for them?

Don’t get trapped in an office & don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! Some of the most meaningful experiences in life are had while working with your hands. Whether on land and sea, working with your hands – growing or building – is a rewarding, honorable life.

Photos: From the archive of Bren Smith

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