Ocean Nourishment – A global protein source for humanity with carbon storage co-benefit
Our vision is to replicate the strides made in increasing the productivity of land-based agriculture using fertilisers, but in the ocean.
Simplified explanation of the Ocean Nourishment program that can be quickly and effectively scaled for mass region coverage.
The Senegal ocean Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was chosen for feasibility demonstration of the Ocean Nourishment program but the program is intended to embrace equivalent spaces in all oceans.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Ocean Nourishment Foundation Ltd.
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small NGO (under 50 employees)
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Senegal ocean Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for feasibility demonstration with further expansion to embrace equivalent spaces in all oceans.
What country is your selected Place located in?
Senegal, but there are a number of attractive sites around the world which meet our criteria of oceanic parameters and artisanal communities
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
A number of scientific investigations and assessments have been made in the area over the past 10 years by the Ocean Nourishment Foundation Ltd. We selected Senegal as their fishing industry is quite impoverished but has the capacity to exploit the extra fish that will be produced as a result of our Ocean Nourishment program. Senegal is considered one of the world’s least developed countries and their economy relies heavily on their fishing industry which is vulnerable to climate change. As a result of this, the Ocean Nourishment Foundation identified Senegal as a country that would greatly benefit from our program and simultaneously demonstrate its ability to succeed in other regions of the world with a richer economy.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Along the coast of Senegal, artisan fishermen eke out a subsistence existence. Artisan fishing provides the equivalent of $5 US a day. Due to inroads by large fishing trawlers, this existence is becoming more precarious. Fishermen live in relatively isolated villages with little or no first world infrastructure. Senegal currently has a Sustainable Development Goal rank of 124 out of 162 countries.
Senegal is one of the world’s least developed countries with food insecurity and malnutrition providing an everyday threat for the people of Senegal. 17% of people are considered food insecure and lack adequate access to sufficient, nutritious to live an active, healthy life. The food insecurity of Senegal is related to an inter-generational cycle of poverty and malnutrition. With an early childbearing age (over 30% of adolescent girls by age 19), early motherhood is a key driver of malnutrition in Senegal. Adolescent girls are more likely to be malnourished and have a low birth weight baby who in turn are more likely to become malnourished.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
The coastal fishing industry has been a key part of the food chain in the country, providing much needed fish protein. These fish are caught by small, beach launched, fishing vessels owned and operated by families in the coastal villages. Fish is used firstly for family food security, with the excess being sold as a cash crop to provide money for the other staples of life.
Fish catches per person are reducing as a result of over-fishing, increased population demand and larger trawlers operating offshore who are often tempted to encroach on restricted inshore fisheries. This is often because the offshore waters are deficient in nutrients and so only sustain sparse populations of fish. This situation of competition for dwindling resources is projected to worsen as demand for protein builds around the world. Local fishermen have little political power to defend the depletion of their resource. This is a situation which is being repeated off many of the poorer countries in the equatorial belt. By 2050, if unchecked, fish stocks around the world are projected to collapse, leading to the disintegration of these fishing communities.
The food problem is exacerbated by the rate of carbon build up in the atmosphere. This influences rainfall patterns which in turn affect the sustainability of rainfed agriculture and reduce primary production which is the base of the marine food chain. With the future predicted rate of carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere, the problem is only going to worsen by 2050.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Ocean Nourishment is a process whereby a selected region of ocean, typically outside the shallow water zone, is continuously fertilised to provide known missing nutrients suitable for a marine food chain. Phytoplankton use these nutrients, sunlight and carbon dioxide in photosynthesis to grow and simultaneously expel oxygen. Larger organisms (zooplankton) feed on these, leading to a food chain which results in edible fish. Fish waste recycles to some extent but ultimately falls to the ocean floor, effectively sequestering carbon (which has Carbon Credits value).
By establishing an Ocean Nourishment field offshore Senegal and arranging for local fishermen to have fishing rights over the end product, a new source of protein is created. The prototype plant would disperse perhaps 1M tonnes of nutrient per year which should result in approximately 28 M tonnes of yield and sequestration of 10M tonnes of carbon dioxide. Following success with pilot plants, we consider that more than 300 sites could be established worldwide over the next two decades. This would potentially lift the living standard of the majority of coastal communities in the equatorial band of the planet whilst providing a significant stream of negative emissions to assist in tackling climate change.
The by-product of Ocean Nourishment, being the sequestration of carbon dioxide, is globally important. Based on scientists’ projections of the required rate of negative emissions to avoid 2 degrees of temperature rise, we estimate that this technology can deliver up to 10% of the required goal. Though obviously not the full answer, it can be an important element in preventing catastrophic planetary collapse.
Photosynthesis drives the first level of life in most of the oceans but is limited by availability of nutrients. Ocean Nourishment aims to provide the macronutrient, nitrogen where it is the limiting nutrient, with additional traces of other deficient substances where indicated by water analysis.
Our research has shown that zooplankton graze on extra phytoplankton produced as a result of nourishment. The waste products are grazed on in further biological loops until the dead organic carbon falls into the deep ocean were it is remineralised and effectively trapped for geologically significant periods.
In practice, the components of the system include:
- Onshore plant, using sustainable solar energy to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. This plant would be sited within 500kms of the deployment site.
- A set of ships to carry the mixed fertilizer to the deployment zone, creating and maintaining a uniform low density nutrient field which underpins the foodchain.
- Satellite and ship-based monitoring of algal fields.
- Close co-operation with Senegal fisheries department on agreed management protocols
- Close liaison and interaction with coastal fishing communities with focus on building community and sustainability
- Monitoring of fish takes, including species mix etc.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
With a prototype plant in operation, there will be an increase in the fish catch available to the poor artisan fishermen of Senegal. Progressively, increased income and food security will mean that the coastal poor will improve their lifestyles, including better education and inclusion of girls in the education system. By careful regulation of fish takes, excess fish should be available for on sale to the hinterland (possibly by women utilizing microfinance to set up businesses), generating cash whilst improving the access of inland people to better quality and more reliable protein. With a sustainable fisheries industry in place, by 2050 the coastal villages of Senegal will have transformed into middle class communities with good levels of education and with equal opportunities for women.
Beyond Senegal, by 2050 there will be over 300 Ocean Nourishment facilities around the world taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and increasing the primary production in the ocean to allow small pelagic fish (sardines) to prosper. The increased fish stocks support increased sustainable landings. Artisan fishermen will have built larger boats to fish the nourished water. The certainty of catches will have made them relatively prosperous, resulting in higher levels of education, better opportunities for women in secondary markets and increased trade from the coastal areas to the hinterland.
300 facilities are expected to generate 84 million tonnes (wet weight) per year of fish. This much fish has 8 Mt tonnes of protein. An adequate amount of protein is 1.5kg per person per year. Our Ocean Nourishment facilities can thus, in theory, provide protein for up to 4 Billion people.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Our Vision is for an ocean-based system that will provide fish protein to the world’s population on a hitherto unimagined scale. It will mimic natural processes that occurs in upwelling regions of the ocean. By the year 2050, the desert regions of the world’s oceans will be both producing fish protein and storing large quantities of carbon dioxide in the deep ocean thus slowing climate change
The rising number of people on the earth and the desire for existing poor to be better fed means we need to open up new areas for food production. The ocean has an untapped potential and a low opportunity cost. Initially it can lift the coastal communities of the world’s poorest peoples out of poverty and into sustainable futures. When the economy of fertilising fish production is demonstrated, Ocean Nourishment can take a broader role contributing to the global food supply.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?