Photo: Matt Barton, WHOI

WHAT IS ANCIENT MARINER?

ANCIENT MARINER is developing the critical tools that will allow the nascent seaweed farming industry in the United States to leverage our tremendous marine resources (and one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones) and grow into a global leader in the production of seaweeds.

Background

Our terrestrial food system is broken and on the brink of collapse in the face of climate change. Feeding the 10 billion people projected by 2050 would require a "newly discovered" land area the size of South America, an unlikely scenario. We need an alternative that can sustain the planet without destroying it. Growing seaweed in the oceans offers a unique opportunity to avoid many of the challenges associated with terrestrial agriculture systems. Seaweed farming requires no fertilizer, pesticide or freshwater inputs. It can in fact reduce nutrient overload and aid in climate change mitigation by dampening wave energy (thus protecting shorelines), reducing acidity and elevating oxygen levels in the water. It also shows great promise as a biofuel, with the potential to replace corn ethanol in transportation. In order to meet the demand of our growing population by 2050, we must use the oceans responsibly to build a thriving seaweed farming industry for the production of human food, animal feed, biochemicals, and carbon-neutral fuels.

 

The projects

Our ANCIENT MARINER projects are focused on developing advanced cultivation technologies and management systems that enable sustainable and efficient production of seaweed biomass in the open ocean at scales that can substantially supplement or replace terrestrial agriculture. We got our start with support from the US Department of Energy ARPA-E MARINER Program.The challenge is to dramatically reduce capital and operating cost of seaweed cultivation, while significantly increasing the range of deployment by expanding into more exposed, off-shore environments.

 

To that aim, our team is employing a three-pronged approach:

  1. Development of tools to enable deployment and management of larger and more resilient farms. These tools include marine engineering, computational and economic modeling, and ocean-deployable sensor platforms, like the “kelpbot” that is designed to remotely monitor sites and collect environmental data to inform farm management decisions.

  2. Development of an advanced seaweed breeding project using the latest genomic tools, with realistic goals of improving harvest yields 10 to 20% per year.

  3. Deployment of innovative demonstration farms in temperate and tropical waters that are compatible with offshore conditions and that make more efficient use of ocean space. These farms will allow the responsible scale-up of seaweed farming that is less labor intensive and respectful of other ocean users and the surrounding ecosystem. 

 

There are six ANCIENT MARINER interrelated projects that support the development of these technologies and practices that will accelerate the deployment of advanced ocean farming systems capable of delivering food and renewable feedstocks at prices competitive with agriculture around the world. Click below to learn more about them:

  1. Scalable coastal and offshore macroalgal farming

  2. Seaweed hatchery and selective breeding technologies

  3. Monitoring macroalgae using acoustics and UUV

  4. Autonomous tow vessels

  5. Techniques for tropical seaweed cultivation

  6. Scalable Asparagopsis and other seaweed farming to combat climate change

These ANCIENT MARINER projects are being carried out by a team of experts from across the globe including scientists, engineers, non-profits and small businesses in the US, and advisors from Europe, South Korea, Vietnam, and Chile. Their combined R&D efforts will provide a pathway to triple the global output of farmed seaweed production from 30 million metric tons per year to 90 million by 2030 in a small fraction of the global ocean. This combination of the best scientific expertise, entrepreneurial talent and marketing will enable us to develop and demonstrate fundamental shifts in sustainable ocean farming. This multi-faceted team has combined expertise of  >200 years, and the passion for developing an economically viable, scalable, implementable model that will be a game-changer for future food, energy production, and our climate.

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Photo: Julie Robinson, The Nature  Conservancy                         

MVSG Menemsha kelp.jpeg

Photo: David Bailey, WHOI

Two divers check on seaweed lines at far

Photo: Randy Olson, Nature Conservancy

Individual pucks ready to plant 2019.jpg

Photo: Josh Goldman, Greener Grazing

Photo: Kendall Barbery, GreenWave

Unspooling kelp, buoy background.jpeg

Photo: Paul Caiger, WHOI