3D Ocean Farms
The ocean covers 70% of the Earth, but seafood only represents 2% of the food we eat. Despite how large our oceans are, and how little fish we eat, the way we currently fish is causing serious imbalances in the water. 90% of stocks of wild fish are overfished and some scientists even think that ocean life could collapse by the year 2048. This may or may not happen, but everyone agrees the oceans are overfished, and the risk grows everyday as the demand for food is expected to increase 50-70% by the year 2050. The solution should be simple; farm the fish and make sure supplies are balanced carefully.
Fish farming is not a new concept; it’s possible people were farming fish in China over 4,000 years ago. The difference is that older fish-farming techniques create pollution. A little pollution is okay. However, demand for food has grown so much that the pollution has killed life in the water. People are starting to realize this and fish farming, also called aquaculture, is the fastest growing food sector today.
The ocean is huge though, and definitely has the potential to produce more food if fish farms are designed and managed carefully. People need to grow the right kinds of seafood together to avoid pollution. One fairly new concept, called 3D fish farming, is a cost-efficient, environmentally-friendly farming technique that could sustainably provide huge amounts of food, and also reduce pollution in the water.
What is 3D Farming?
3D farms grow mussels and seaweed horizontally across the top of the water. At the bottom, other kinds of shellfish grow as well. The shellfish clean certain kinds of pollution out of the water and the seaweed takes up carbon. If California put 3D farms in just 3.8% of their waters, the seaweed would take in as much carbon as the whole state of California produces. Mussels and seaweed are also zero input; that means they do not need food, fresh water, or anything else to grow. (Fish) farmers simply wait for them to grow, so they are by far the cheapest to produce.
Fish, seaweed and shellfish farms are common in Asia. However, the American government has only recently started allowing this kind of farming. It will probably take quite a long time for these types of farms to grow around America.
Another problem (in America) is that not enough people want to eat shellfish and seaweed. Consider that in California 500 grams of mussels might cost $10 – $15, while in Qingdao, China they might cost around $1.50 – $2.25. Less people like to eat clams in USA, so there are fewer farmers, and so they sell their product at a higher price, so then people who do like to eat clams eat less than they would if the prices were lower. Seaweed is also quite delicious, but in many cultures it is not a popular food. One company trying to change the market and provide more sustainable food is Catalina Sea Ranch.
Greenwave is a program that teaches people to become 3D ocean farmers. They actually train people to start their own 3D fish farm. Their website says it is a low investment, it requires about 0.081 square kilometers (80,937 square meters), a boat, and $20-50k. According to their website, “[Their] goal is to train and support 10,000 farmers and industry leaders…. demand for [their program] has skyrocketed, with more than 5,000 people on the waiting list and requests to start farms in over 100 countries”. In one year, a farm can produce 50,000 pounds (22,679 kilograms) of seaweed and 250,000 shellfish.
3D ocean farms definitely won’t solve all of the world’s food problems, but as said above, its the fastest growing sector of the food industry. This is also completely necessary to improve ocean farming systems because the old systems are no longer efficient. As demand for food increases, fish supplies decrease further than they already are, and more land becomes un-farmable, shellfish and seaweed could be the food sources that more people turn to. Much of the growth in world population will also be in developing countries, where these zero input crops provide a cheap, healthy, and environmentally friendly food source.