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Seaweed farming offers global food-water security even as Climate Change disrupts traditional land and ocean food supplies.



Humanity must adapt while using less fossil fuel and feeding more people with less fresh water even as fossil fuel consumption makes traditional food production unreliable with: gradually warming air and oceans, more extreme weather, ocean acidification, ocean hypoxia, disruptions of the ocean nitrogen cycle, droughts, floods, seawater intrusion into coastal and island fresh water aquifers, etc.

Marine Agronomy is seaweed farming for food, feed and biochemicals and a sub-proposal of the Ocean Foresters’ Global Plan.  The 3-dimensional nature of water agriculture and our improved knowledge of ecology, allow us to conduct ocean-healing farming.  In contrast to terrestrial agriculture, ocean farms and forests are capable of:      Creating regional havens of higher pH for shellfish.

     Restoring barren ocean dead zones by capturing and recycling nutrients from terrestrial runoff.

     Supplementing our food supply with at least millions of tons more food.

     Sparing land and freshwater that would otherwise be used to expand agriculture.

     Hedging against shortfalls in agricultural production due to climate change.

     Creating millions of jobs in coastal communities worldwide.

     Providing all the above environmental and food security benefits while putting no extra tax burden on society.

About 20 million tons/yr of seaweed is now farmed worldwide, almost all in Asia. But this is only 0.3% of food farmed on land. Yet the oceans cover 70% of Earth. This vast space can be more effectively used to sustain humanity. This is not a new idea, the U.S. Marine Biomass Program having done pioneering work in this area in the 1970s. What is new is appreciation of the urgency to find climate-change-immune food security, and advances in aquaculture techniques that make the prospect of oceanic farming more ocean-healing.

Laminaria farming in China

Category of the action

Mitigation/Adaptation, Changing public attitudes about climate change

What actions do you propose?

1.      Develop, produce, and market seaweed-based staples.

Increase demand for seaweed farming by increasing the quality and diversity of staples and snacks made from seaweed: seaweed-based Plumpy’Nut, flour, livestock and fish feed, new foods from seaweed or algae blooms such as a peanut butter substitute or 3D printed tasty seaweed jerky, etc.  This in addition to the current high-value but low-volume demand for whole fresh seaweed and crustaceans.


2.      Fund the “environmental study” costs while expanding Marine Agronomy and Ocean Forestry.

One reason offshore oil development and liquefied natural gas terminals can be built relatively quickly is their environmental impacts are known.  The unknown expense of studies and ongoing monitoring for marine agronomy operations should be offset by subsidies for extensive monitoring combined with large-scale generic permits and models for paying the managers of Ocean Forestry for ecosystem services.

Marine farms and forests can also include real-time scientific information gathering via power and instrumentation cables extended to shore.  School children could view and interact with sea life by controlling an ROV over the internet.


3.      Establish an international Ocean-healing Development Goal.

Environmentally beneficial, low-cost, multi-purpose coastal adaptations would be a component of Ocean-healing Development.  United Nations Millennium Development Goals barely mention the world’s oceans or global warming.  The new (2015 goals) should include an Ocean Restorative Development Goal, because doing so offers the best hope for creating sustainable jobs, food, virtual freshwater, and energy while restoring ocean health.  Plus, Ocean Restorative Development prepares new living space for island and coastal societies as sea level rises.


4.      Include Ocean-healing Development goals in all national research plans.

Invisible reefs are a component of the hope-giving research discussed in the Ocean Foresters Global Plan.  In this case: hope for a safe place to live; and hope for a job.  Research and development strategies in all countries, the United Nation, and the World Bank need to include hope-giving research and development.

Who will take these actions?

Action 1 is by global food developers: individual concocting recipes; companies making new food products; and governments funding researchers.

The funding agencies may prefer to retain universities.  Many are involved in attempts to 3D-print substitutes for traditional animal foods.

The Ocean Foresters are currently a loose collaboration of researchers and social business people.  We have the wide range of business, science, engineering, and local indigenous expertise needed to implement the initial stages (see a partial list pictured below).  We have strong connections with universities across the world.  We have received a small internal research grant from USP.  We lack the funding needed to expand.  We are ready to apply for government grants, angel investors, venture capital, and philanthropic funding.  

Action 2 results from pro-active environmentalists convincing their representatives to invest in the safe (ocean-healing) growth of a new sustainable form of farming and forestry.

Action 3 is taken by United Nations delegates as a result of lobbying by the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other highly impacted developing countries for an Ocean Restorative Development Goal.

Action 4 results from citizens lobbying their governments and employers to require research plans which promise hope for adapting and mitigating.

Where will these actions be taken?

Action 1 is by food developers, globally.

Action 2 is by developed country governments.

Action 3 is taken at United Nations headquarters along with the other 2015 development goals.

Action 4 happens in developed country governments, universities, and large corporations refocusing their research goals from predicting warming to preventing warming.

What are other key benefits?

Water – Fresh water is the major benefit.  Marine agronomy produces virtual freshwater.  The benefits are similar to desalting vast volumes of seawater (without the energy use and concentrated brine disposal).    Most freshwater (70-80%) is used to grow food, a fact which has placed negative connotations on “virtual water.”  Freshwater grown food is also the primary driver for conflicts, migrations, river diversions, groundwater overdraft, coastal deadzones, etc.


Eat Kelp. It’s chock-full of nutrients, it mitigates climate change by sequestering carbon, improves oceans by soaking up excess nitrogen and phosphorus, and has potential as a valuable fertilizer and biofuel.

It’s also delicious.

What are the proposal’s costs?

There are no costs in the traditional sense of funds building a sea-wall which serves only to preserve human development below sea level.

Instead, one can expect to recover invested funds in:

Healed habitats;


Less expensive and more nutritious food;

Avoided migrations and wars;


Time line

Time-to-feeding-the-world depends on investment timing.

Left to market forces, marine agronomy will continue expanding in existing markets, mostly in Asia, making a small dent in global malnutrition over the next couple decades.

Immediate global investments of a few $tens of millions could enable safe-yield groundwater management in grain-growing areas within a decade.

Related proposals

Global Plan, "Reversing Climate Change with Ocean-healing Seaweed Forests"

Adaptation to Climate Change, "Invisible shore-protecting flexible reefs for coastal, food, and water security"

Adaptation to Climate Change, "Capturing rivers at sea"

Land Use: Agriculture, Livestock, & Forestry, "Ocean-healing 3D agriculture and forestry: Marine Agronomy"