The oceans, ravines, rivers, lakes, while these bodies of water are often treated poorly by many, others do their best to give creatures back a healthy home. One such person is Bren Smith, a man who believes fishermen could benefit from his idea for underwater farming. And not to simply put food on families plates but create jobs as well.
For fishermen, underwater farming will not only be beneficial in terms of work but will increase the value of what they catch. By investing in this intuitive farming approach, locals that receive food from the catch will appreciate the care taken into not only catching but the economy of where the food comes from.
Bren's vertical garden
Bren Smith describes his 3D underwater farm as a “vertical garden” made with a variety of seaweed, hurricane proof anchors and cages of oysters at the bottom with clams buried in the floor. Floating horizontal ropes rest on the surface (click here for a picture of it.) One of the most notable features is that (as Bren puts it) it has a "low aesthetic impact." This means that it is small in size and does not disturb or get in the way of the ocean's beauty.
Smith goes on to explain that: “Because the farm is vertical, it has a small footprint. My farm used to be 100 acres; now it's down to 20 acres, but it produces much more food than before. If you want 'small is beautiful,' here it is. We want ocean agriculture to tread lightly."
The saying "small is beautiful" or "good things come in small packages" is something to be encouraged here. One way this is being done with Bren and his team is their ultimate goal: diversity.
Essentially, they want to grow healthier food for all life in the oceans. They intend to grow two types of seaweed (kelp and Gracilaria), four kinds of shellfish and will harvest the salt themselves. This is further explained via a video in which Bren explains how he plans to bridge both land and sea farming. For more detailed information, you can visit the green wave website.
In other words, this vertical garden will help to not only restore better food but a better economy for the oceans. Often people worry the ocean has become full of garbage; which could drive some from eating its nutritious food. What we should understand is that many people believe in a cleaner ocean and are doing their best to make that a reality.
Now let's have a look at the current issues with how fishing is done today. For starters, Bren says that a lot of unhealthy food is being produced daily. Specifically, in the fishing industry, he is concerned that pesticides used in new technologies and injecting fish with antibiotics are causing serious damage. Not only is it damaging the waterways and fish but is also potentially ruining businesses. This state of affairs is a common issue with many branches of the food industry. It is due to companies wanting to mass produce what they sell to stay on top of competitors.
Another point Bren makes is that climate change is an "economic issue" rather than an environmental issue. This rings true not only in the fishing industry but all industries requiring mass production. Big businesses that run in this mass produced way probably won't listen to the "little guy, " but if the message is constructed in their "language", they could greatly benefit from a more economical approach. Bren is simply trying to provide a cleaner business for the industry to be more aware where they take their business. It's like Bren says, "My job has never been to save the seas; it's to see how the seas can save us."
Cousteau family contribution to ocean preservation
Bren mentioned a notable quote by Jacque Cousteau which states: “We must plant the sea and herd its animals using the ocean as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about — farming replacing hunting.”
The most noteworthy part of that quote is at the end when he says "farming replacing hunting." Reason being is that a lot of fishermen tend to focus on just the "hunting" part of their business. They may feel the need to focus on numbers rather than look at what they are doing not only to the economy of where do their hunting but what they are catching.
Speaking of Cousteau, his grandson (Fabien) and his team of researchers from the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Centre are utilizing 3D printing for coral reefs. They have put this into action by installing the first artificial reef on the ocean floor at the Bonaire, a Caribbean island near Venezuela. These two innovations could go well together because Bren is providing a healthy source of food and economy and Fabien is creating a fresh structure for the ocean floors.
Three challenges to be tackled
Bren hopes to tackle three primary challenges: The first one being to put great food on people's plates whether it's at home or in restaurants—mainly from areas of overfishing and food insecurities. The present issue though with this is that overfishing will continue to exist until businesses invest and understand Bren's innovation.
Second, is to "transform fishermen into restorative ocean farmers." In layman terms, it simply means he wants fishermen to understand that they have to treat what they hunt with respect and be gentle to their home.
Lastly, he wants to create “new blue-green economy that doesn’t recreate the injustices of the old industrial economy." Essentially, he wants to keep the industry wholesome while maintaining the good of the old economy. Kind of like an old-meets-new approach.
The focal point of these challenges is that if fishermen are going to hunt, they need to give the creatures a cleaner home to live in and listen to those who want to provide that.
In consensus, Bren Smith has spent a long time developing a unique approach to cleaning up the sea life's habitat and the life that lives in it. He loves and respects the fishing industry but feels it could do more to bridge the gap between sea and land farming.
The impact this could have on the industry is immense in terms of growing more food in less space. Like he mentioned it is a "vertical garden," there is no need to utilize a lot of space. The fact that his innovation can grow more food in less space means that others can do the same too. By having his 3D farm grow from fishermen-to-fishermen, we will not only help the industry grow but create more jobs. Businesses can keep hunting while thinking of the economy.
Think about all those warehouse plants that cause so much pollution and how much they focus on greed rather than the greater good. There are many voices out there like Bren’s. It’s only a matter of listening, understanding and applying new practical methods. Sometimes thinking smaller but outside the box benefits greatly. For all you fishermen out there, please do think about how “the sea can save us.” Both you and innovators like Bren can truly make a difference in the fishing industry.