Impact Journalism Day by Sparknews: A better home - No. 22

'Ocean farmer' helps tackle climate change

Mr Bren Smith believes his 3-D ocean farming can help feed the world's 7.4 billion people.
Mr Bren Smith believes his 3-D ocean farming can help feed the world's 7.4 billion people.PHOTO: SPARKNEWS

NEW HAVEN (Connecticut) • A visionary, you might say, is someone who can take two negatives and create a positive. That's what Mr Bren Smith is doing.

A former commercial fisherman, Mr Smith has reinvented himself as an "ocean farmer". And he wants others to do the same.

He believes his model, which he calls 3-D ocean farming, can help feed the world's 7.4 billion people and heal the environment. His model is an underwater farm that uses the whole water column, effectively enabling him to produce maximum yield in a minimal area.

 

Mr Smith's choice of crops is as strategic as the system itself. Kelp absorbs nitrogen from agricultural run-off and pulls up to five times more carbon dioxide from the air than land plants. The farm thus lessens some effects of climate change even as it produces food, fuel, fertiliser and feed.

The reefs also act as storm-surge protectors, reducing the impact of hurricanes, and attract dozens of species, replacing former "dead zones" with thriving ecosystems.

Mr Smith can't do this alone. So in 2014 he created GreenWave, a non-profit designed to facilitate the replication of his model while building infrastructure and doing R&D on new kelp-based products. The organisation aims to train a generation of ocean farmers.

Mr Smith has plans to publish an open-source manual so that anyone can replicate the model anywhere in the world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline ''Ocean farmer' helps tackle climate change'. Print Edition | Subscribe