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GreenWave: Creating a New Generation of Restorative Ocean Farmers

The 3D Ocean Farming platform will train and build community among ocean farmers globally, empowering coastal communities and creating jobs.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The world’s oceans, and the people who rely on them, are in trouble. Overfishing, climate change, and nitrogen run-off from land-based farms are environmental threats with economic consequences. Over 3 billion people rely on marine biodiversity for their primary food source or income. Once-thriving ports and manufacturing communities are now some of the most depressed areas in the United States and beyond due to overfishing and climate change.
 
GreenWave’s vertical ocean farming system grows a mix of native seaweeds and shellfish that require zero inputs - making it the most sustainable food on the planet - while sequestering carbon and rebuilding reef ecosystems. Our farms are cheap to build: anyone with 10 acres, a boat, and $20,000 can be up and running within one year. Growing vertically underwater, we produce high yields with minimal aesthetic impact and a small footprint.

3D Ocean Farming has the potential for deep economic impact. According to the World Bank, farming seaweed in 5% of US waters has the potential to create 50 million jobs - the biggest job creator since World War II.

We have over 1200 requests to start farms from every coastal state in the U.S. and 20 countries around the world. GreenWave has ample momentum to scale, but demand for our hands-on education and technical assistance programming has quickly outstripped organizational capacity. In response, we propose a community-driven interactive online Platform that will act as an educational, community-building, and technical assistance resource for farmers around the world.

GreenWave’s interactive online Platform would educate potential and existing farmers, collect and aggregate farm and reef-level data, and create a community space for all restorative ocean farming stakeholders. This Platform would support rapid and efficient scaling of the regenerative ocean farming economy, creating jobs and providing the tools and resources for economic empowerment of coastal communities.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The Platform will target economically insecure fishers and shellfishers, and other aspiring ocean farmers in global coastal communities who are serious about starting and managing their own small scale, diversified farms. Through the Platform, farmers will access educational materials and create community connections with other farmers to build the skills and knowledge needed to profitably manage their new farms. The Platform will include the following components that will be beneficial to fledgling ocean farmers: a Farmer Dashboard for on-farm data tracking and 1-on-1 chatting with other farmers; a Community Dashboard that will aggregate farm-level data and track ecosystem services, including carbon and nitrogen sequestration; Technical and Regulatory Resources to provide education and direction on farming-related topics like permitting, species selection, and designing your farm; and an Online Co-op, allowing growers to connect and negotiate with wholesalers and other distributors.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Using technology to build a learning community for farmers has been done for land-based agriculture, but it has not been done for ocean farming. Our unique advantage comes from our position as pioneers of 3D Ocean Farming; because we developed the farming model and have a strong team of former fishers and current ocean farmers, we are uniquely qualified to teach new farmers and to build a movement around the developing blue-green economy. While other organizations are providing educational opportunities for shellfish farmers or other aquaculturists, our approach will focus on 3D Ocean Farming - growing both shellfish and seaweeds on the same ocean plot to maximize yields and ecosystem services. We’re focused on both environmental and economic restoration, not just the “how-to” nuts and bolts of farming (though those are important, too!), and building a community of farmers online who can share lessons and experiences to rapidly scale and improve upon this farming model.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

GreenWave was founded in 2014 to replicate and scale the 3D Ocean Farming model, by providing robust training and technical assistance to new farmers so they can create ecologically and economically sustainable farms; by creating and open sourcing educational materials and tools via an online platform to encourage widespread adoption; by participating in research projects to stay ahead of the climate curve; and by supporting regenerative ocean farming policy efforts in new areas. http://greenwave.org

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

With thousands of inquiries coming from interested farmers in every coastal state in the US and 20 countries globally, demand for our programming quickly outstripped our organizational capacity. Acknowledging that our current high-touch hands-on training model limits the potential for expansion and impact, we ideated a community-driven interactive platform to capture, direct, curate and resource this rising tide of interest, scaling the restorative ocean farming economy rapidly and efficiently.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

The negative effects of climate change and overfishing on the Planet have impacted the prosperity of coastal communities that have historically relied on the oceans for food and employment. Dwindling wild fish stocks, warming waters, and nitrogen run-off from land-based agriculture make economic opportunities for fishers unsustainable. Planet and prosperity are deeply connected, proving that climate change isn’t just an environmental issue, but an economic issue as well.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

To ensure that the technology is accessible for and fulfilling the needs of the farming community, we’re working with farmers directly. The idea for the project came from the incredible amount of interest we received from farmers for online learning resources and connection to one another, so we want the Platform to feel farmer-centered. We’re collecting ideas from farmers in our Farmer-in-Training Program now, and will test the various tools and components on farmers already in our network as they’re ready. It will be an iterative process to ensure ease of use and functionality.

We’ll also include our academic partners (University of Connecticut, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) in building the online educational resource library, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology in developing our own manuals, tools, and resources for farmers.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Coastal communities once known for their thriving fisheries and manufacturing are now struggling economically. Though they may face a lack of economic opportunity, they are well-prepared for new on-the-water innovation like 3D Ocean Farming. With generations-long family histories of working the water, coastal communities have latent skills (boating skills, gear knowledge, fishing and shellfishing experience), infrastructure (boats, gear), and a deep-seated commitment to working on the water.

Geographic Focus

Coastal communities globally

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Because the online Platform is still in the pilot phase, we will need 36 months to build, test, and roll out the various components. We anticipate starting with one component at a time (ie, first building the education and resource library, then adding a discussion board function, before adding a 1-on-1 chat feature).

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

1 comment

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Photo of Tyler Goodwin
Team

Hi Emily,

Zero-input farming sounds pretty awesome! As a Houston native, it's great to see folks tackling economic challenges in coastal communities :-)

Have a couple of Q's for you:

- Could share more about the assumed market potential of the seaweed grown in your farms?
- Curious to understand more of your knowledge about the impact of run-off on coastal areas (in particular: to what extent does agricultural and/or industrial run-off limit potential site viability or impact the quality of the crops?)