As climate change seeps into every aspect of our food chain, including our oceans, there is an imperative to pivot to alternative sources for nutrition to keep up with the needs of our population. One example is the use of algae in omega-3 supplements instead of fish or krill oil because it prevents overfishing and also goes straight to the source of the nutrition (fish get their omega-3’s through what they eat!).
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When Michael Doall was a teenager, he hated seaweed, and so did everybody else he knew on Long Island. It was an icky nuisance that brushed against your legs at the beach, fouled your fishing hook and got tangled around the propeller of your boat. Only later, as a marine scientist and oyster farmer, did he develop a love for sugar kelp, a disappearing native species that is one of the most useful seaweeds. Now he is on a mission to bring it back to the waters of New York.
Native to the East Coast, sugar kelp may become an important tool to sustainably maintain plant health, given it is rich in important micronutrients and powerful bio-stimulating compounds. Join Sean Barrett and Edwina von Gal to take a deep dive into the many ways kelp-based fertilizers can dramatically strengthen root zones and improve soil health while also removing carbon from the atmosphere and combating climate change.
One of the brightest hopes for sequestering carbon lies in the darkest place on earth: the abyssal depths of the deep ocean. For millennia, dead plants and animals have sunk to the bottom of the sea, where they form sediment that eventually turns into rock (and sometimes fossil fuels).
Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of hope placed in seaweed as a way to tackle climate change. The excitement stemmed from studies suggesting seaweed could be scaled up to capture and store huge quantities of carbon dioxide, taking advantage of rapid growth rates, large areas, and long-term storage in the deep ocean.
In late January, Elon Musk tweeted that he planned to give $100 million to promising carbon removal technologies, stirring the hopes of researchers and entrepreneurs. A few weeks later, Arin Crumley, a filmmaker who went on to develop electric skateboards, announced that a team was forming on Clubhouse, the audio app popular in Silicon Valley, to compete for a share of the Musk-funded XPrize.
Seaweed has been removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for at least 500 million years. Recent studies suggest that wild seaweed continues to do humanity a solid by sequestering 173 million metric tons annually. The average square kilometer of seaweed can sequester more than a thousand metric tons. Start-ups like Maine-based Running Tide hope to help this process along by farming seaweed for the express purpose of sinking it and locking down its carbon. Shopify has already agreed to be the first purchaser of the resulting carbon offsets.
Seaweed is also eaten by humans all over the world and its popularity in the U.S. is growing. Rich in protein and vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, folic acid, and vitamin K, studies have shown significant health benefits to eating seaweed, including reduced blood pressure and improved digestive health. It’s no wonder seaweeds are trending as the new superfood. There’s even one that tastes like bacon for the vegetable-haters out there.
Giant kelp, the world’s largest species of marine algae, is an attractive source for making biofuels. In a recent study, we tested a novel strategy for growing kelp that could make it possible to produce it continuously on a large scale. The key idea is moving kelp stocks daily up to near-surface waters for sunlight and down to darker waters for nutrients.
In the race to stall or even reverse global warming, new efforts are in the works to pull carbon dioxide out of the air and put it somewhere safe. One startup in Maine has a vision that is drawing attention from scientists and venture capitalists alike: to bury massive amounts of seaweed at the bottom of the ocean, where it will lock away carbon for thousands of years.