Open-Source Seafarming: A Blue Revolution in Costa Rica?

image from Flickr user: L'eau Bleue

Ricardo Radulovich is building cheap, sustainable sea-farms that could revolutionize agriculture, clean our oceans, and feed millions.

There are a billion chronically hungry people, and many more are malnourished. Humanity urgently needs to increase food production apart from overexploited fisheries and unsustainable agriculture on terra firma.

Such a revolution in food production is possible at sea, where boundless spaces teem with renewable agricultural resources. Enter Ricardo Radulovich, a Costa Rican water sciences professor laboring to freely share his potentially revolutionary sea-farming technologies.

Through more than ten-years of marine agriculture research, funded in part by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The World Bank, Radulovich developed low-cost sea-farm models suitable for even the poorest of coastal, pan-tropical countries.

These sea-farms harness the ocean’s natural trophic cycle, transforming uncultivated coastal waters into rich agricultural ‘ground’ producing predictable, year-round harvests of nutritious seaweeds, filter-feeder shellfish, and herbivorous fish—without requiring an inch of land, a drop of freshwater, or any additional input.

Sea-farms stimulate local supporting industries, and can spawn a variety of local, downstream enterprises in fresh and preserved food, nutritional supplements, animal feedstock, fertilizers, hydrocolloids, oils, and biofuels.

Moreover, these sea-farming techniques are valuable coastal resource management tools that address marine overfishing, bioremediation of polluted marine environments, and ocean acidification. Implementing Radulovich’s sea-farm models worldwide would feed many hungry mouths, offer much economic opportunity, and measurably improve marine environments.

Radulovich hopes to find financing to expand The Sea-Farms Project, which validates and documents a range of sea-farm models suitable for smallholders, community enterprises, and large-scale humanitarian endeavors.

His model is already cheap and effective.

The base sea-farm feeds five persons daily, year-round, from one-half hectare of diversified sea-farm plot and $200.00 (USD) in material costs. The Project builds upon this extraordinary foundation, assembling resources from four tropical marine research centers and developing research, training, and extension sea-farming units in Pacific Costa Rica, Caribbean Panama, the Gulf of Thailand, and Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Each unit will thoroughly document operations in order to develop a range of literature and media about sea- farming and related industry opportunities. These materials are key to implementing Radulovich’s sea-farm models and figuring out the socio-economic impact of 100 sea-farm enterprises spread around the world.

The Project supports policy structures that encourage sea-farming within coastal communities. It also promotes the use of seaweed-based foods designed to help these products to permanently enter the marketplace.

The Project continues Radulovich’s research dedicated to understanding the many positive environmental impacts of sea-farming.

Sea-farming addresses marine overfishing by providing coastal communities with food and economic alternatives, and by improving local marine biodiversity. Radulovich’s sea-farming shows measurable increases in baitfish and shark populations.

Second, the natural processes by which these sea-farms obtain nutrients, including uptake of dissolved nutrients by seaweeds through biosynthesis and filtration of organic matter and plankton by shellfish, are valuable forms of bioremediation that clean ocean water by removing excess nutrients.

And third, sea-farming ameliorates ocean acidification by sequestering considerable amounts of carbon.

Radulovich’s sea-farming technologies extend far out to sea. Open ocean seaweed farms are capable of bio-remediating much of the 250,000 square kilometers of marine ‘dead zones’—hypoxic bodies of water caused by excessive pollution —while also sustainably producing mass amounts of food. Seaweed farms in productive open ocean areas would increase biodiversity, boost baitfish stocks, and supply the emerging biofuel industry.

Radulovich has also experimented with farming terrestrial crops at sea on self-sustaining rafts that collect freshwater. This paradigm shift presents several distinct advantages worth exploring. For instance, the ocean just a few miles from shore is almost wholly devoid of insects and plant pathogens (and crop-eating birds and animals).

Crops grown at sea require no pesticides, tolerance for which is a primary reason for GMO.

Among other suitable crops, Radulovich envisions flotillas of citrus trees, and attendant harvesting and juice processing ships, setting to purpose the ocean’s boundless spaces, and the sunshine and rain which falls upon them. Eventually, seaweed farmed on the high seas, rather than petroleum, will supply polymers for a range of biodegradable ‘plastic’ 3-D printer feedstocks, forever transforming manufacturing.

Radulovich’s Sea-Farm Project, and the nascent Center for Sea-Farming Technology in Costa Rica, a permanent sea-farm technology transfer institute that will continue operations at the Project’s extension units, are significant steps towards achieving a ‘blue’ food revolution. Moreover, and in the manner of Norman Borlaug, Radulovich offers his agricultural technologies for free.

Watch Radulovich on Vimeo:

Ricardo Radulovich on Sea Farming at the Seasteading Conference 2012 from The Seasteading Institute on Vimeo.

A guest article by Ryan William Nohea Garcia. Ryan is from the Big Island of Hawai’i and now lives in San Diego. He does business development for The Sea-Farms Project. Ryan hopes someday to see a more peaceful world based on voluntary societies.

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  1. [...] can now add “Radical Social Entrepreneur” to his long list of laurels. Today’s featured article on the Radical Social Entrepreneurs website, authored by seasteading ambassador Ryan Garcia, explains how Radulovich’s open-source [...]