Author: Linnea Covington
In Food Republic’s new series Game Changers, we take a close look at a few of the individuals working to change the way we view the food industry. First up is fisherman and vertical farmer Bren Smith.
Why would you plant acres of land when you can build a farm of the same size vertically in the sea? At least, that’s one of the questions that got fisherman Bren Smith of Thimble Island Oyster Co. thinking. After all, you don’t need fresh water, land or fertilizer to make his oysters, mussels, scallops and various types of kelp grow. So, with these things in mind, he created the first vertical farm in the country.
“The idea was to just grow things that are restorative and grow naturally in the water, which means they have zero impact,” says Smith, who runs his 40-acre farm off the Long Island Sound. “The beautiful thing about farming in the ocean is you can do multiple species, you aren’t fighting gravity, you can use the whole column and it’s very affordable.”
Though Smith has been involved in green farming since he started his company 13 years ago, the vertical approach came into practice in the last few years after hurricanes Irene and Sandy wiped out his original farm. After that, Smith got together with seaweed expert Charles Yarish of the University of Connecticut and redid his operation. It turned out to be so successful that he plans on replicating it soon in five different areas.
A vertical farm is an organized stretch of water that grows mollusks and seaweed in column form.
But what is vertical farming exactly? Simple. A vertical farm — also called a 3D ocean farm — is an organized stretch of water that grows certain mollusks and seaweed in a column, from the top to the sea floor. To make this method even more desirable, the species that inhabit these “rows” help restore the ocean by keeping it clean, healthy and more habitable to other sea creatures.