Five ways farming at sea is a climate game changer

Christophe Jospe
Aug 14, 2018 · 3 min read

If don’t have time the time to listen to our latest (and in my humble opinion best yet) podcast we did with Dr. Brian Von Herzen, let me tell you: he paints a beautiful vision of a promising climate solution at sea.

Brian envisons an industry that employs millions of people who are in some way, shape, or form involved marine permaculture. That is, regenerating ocean deserts into thousands of kelp forests and restoring life (and carbon!) to the ocean. He describes a simple technique that enables it all; essentially upwelling waters from cool temperature to warmer temperatures. This process will bring nutrients to help feed the fish and restore the ecosystems. There are a number of reasons why this is so aligned with Nori, and it’s not just because we love seaweed.

So why do we consider this a climate game changer? Here are five reasons.

Ecosystem survival

The oceans are under attack. Acidifying and warming, many populations are dying. As Greenland melts into the ocean and feedback loops continue to warm the planet, it is critical that we do all we can to use natural systems to heal the planet. The solution Von Herzen evangelizes for follows a principle of permaculture. On the podcast he asked:

Why can’t we get everything from the forests without without destroying the forests?

Kelp forests are a way to build ecosystems quickly that can restore the carbon balance in the ocean and create habitats for ocean life. Below is a schematic of what you need to make it work.

Climate Foundation graphic of upwelling process

Food security

We need to feed our growing population. One of the great advantages from marine permaculture is that it enhances fish populations (on paper, marine permaculture could bring back enough fish populations to feed the earth), while also producing edible nutrition with algae. We can do this through feeding fish algae (instead of grain), feeding ourselves algae, and feeding cattle algae. Why cattle might you ask? Well, it makes them fatter, healthier, and they emit far less methane.

Carbon Export is abundant

The carbon removal process of what Brian is working on is what he refers to as “carbon export.” It’s a good term, because it is literally taking carbon from a reservoir where it’s captured (in the kelp), and exporting it away (to the deep ocean). It’s also intuitive, because it is possible to track the state of the algae. Want to get paid for sinking it? Pay for the export. In a way, this would represent the floor price of what carbon farming in the ocean could rely on. If you don’t have a way to get paid more than what it would cost to generate a carbon removal certificate, sink the algae and get paid in NORI.

A use case for Seasteading?

It takes 3–10 years to get a permit to build a seaweed farm off the coast of the United States. It only takes weeks to get a permit for a vessel to go around the world and seed regenerative ecosystems. It gave me two thoughts. 1) Why aren’t we doing this already? 2) Brian should know Joe Quirk, because this is an ideal use case to establish seasteads which are doing this sort of activity.

Unmanned underwater vehicles reduce monitoring costs

Unmanned underwater vehicles are just beginning to surface. The Hydroid is one emerging example that could deliver data that can reduce uncertainty around amount of carbon dioxide removed. This would be a key driver in the delivery of higher scores on carbon removal certificates.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Blake Midnight/Released — This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 141104-N-WB378–003

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