Sustainability is a buzzword in the global farming scene these days. But what does it take to replace ecologically draining farming practices with smarter, long-lasting ones—and, more realistically, what does this mean for you in the grocery store?
Aquaculture: the way of the future!
In terms of global capital, the ocean, which covers about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, is by and large our most replenishable resource. Modern developments in food production have exponentially improved our ability to reap a successful harvest even from the sea’s harshest depths. That’s good news for societies struggling to feed their populations after previously over-relying on earth-depleting land crops.
Thanks to growing scientific research into efficient growth processes, much of the cultivation of unlikely crops like seaweed is now actually accomplished using nothing but a simple system of ropes. Farmers in coastal areas usually tether their crops to lines and attach them to buoys, so that the crops have access to maximum sunlight just by sitting on top of the water. This process requires little to no disruption of natural ecosystems, unlike the majority of ground-grown crops that inherently require laborious cultivation and manipulation of soil, minerals and freshwater systems.
And because these kinds of crops don’t require any fertilizer or fresh water, the power needed to bring food to harvest is almost entirely fueled by humans, not machinery. At the end of the day, this means more jobs for farmers—jobs that are not threatened by monopolization, genetic manipulation or mechanization—which translates to the building of modern, sustainable practices to be passed down for generations to come.
With such enterprising new developments, seaweed production is booming as never before. The global seaweed harvest has doubled in the past decade, and according to a new report from the United Nations University, sea crops as a whole are now worth more than all the world’s lemons and lime trees, all without the need for an “off season” while resources replenish.
Additionally, the socio-economic impact of seaweed farming on coastal communities that have traditionally relied on exploitative fisheries has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, it has been so positive that producers are now considering expansion to otherwise difficult-to-cultivate climates like Alaska, truly making the most of every inch of previously unusable farmland.
Globally, over 27 million tons of farmed seaweed are produced each year, worth over $6 billion. Among that harvest, demand for red seaweed carrageenan—an important, natural byproduct—continues to rise every year.
Not a replacement, but an enhancement.
The use of stabilizers like carrageenan means that the longevity of the existing staple foods we all consume can be extended far past previously wasteful shelf lives of yesteryear. This brings us closer to closing the gap between affluent markets and food deserts, reducing food waste and making sure that more people have access to wholesome, real food.
By replacing our societal usage of unsustainable farm goods with practices that not only supplement our food supply but also enrich the environment for other crops, aquaculture is part of the equation ensuring that each dollar spent—from fertilizer, to processing, to the expiration date in your pantry—is truly exerting the most bang for its buck.