This series provides insights into the global array of companies participating in this challenge as innovators or sponsors.
The 7th of this Spotlight Series focuses on Seawater Solutions, one of the eight innovation finalists of this program. In the coming weeks leading to the grand Finale on the 7th of October, we will profile the other innovations and sponsors of this challenge.
Seawater Solutions plans to use aquaculture to reverse desertification
(Glasgow, UK) Desertification and coastal erosion are up there as one of the deadliest consequences of climate changes to humankind.
Seawater Solutions is an impact-focused innovation from the cohort companies of the Global Aquaculture Challenge (GAC) organized by The Yield Lab Asia Pacific. The start-up envisages an optimization model of carbon credits and circular aquaculture farming to create new ecosystems in the vast areas of coastal land around the world that seemingly have no other use because of the lack of freshwater supplies.
The company is led by a group of young professionals including the central pairing of Nicholas Shell and Yanik Nyberg, who studied environmental science and aquaculture at the UK’s University of Stirling respectively. The two met while studying at high school in Hanoi.
Growing up in Vietnam has given both Nyberg and Shell a unique perspective on aquaculture and farming. The Southeast Asian country has become a global aquaculture powerhouse in the past couple of decades, especially through the farming of pangasius and shrimp in the Mekong Delta in the south of the country. However, Seawater Solutions project involvement is extremely global, and is working across a number of sites from Bangladesh to Ghana.
Seawater Solutions in particular is keen to develop the use of salicornia, a type of halophyte that can be consumed as a vegetable or as an underlying animal feed product ingredient. Although somewhat unproven on a commercial scale, salicornia is actually an edible vegetable known as sea asparagus in Hawaii, and could also be used as an aquafeed ingredient because of its protein content.
“We are planning to grow salicornia on a really big scale. We want to make it into a cash crop,” Shell said. “It’s able to grow in areas that no other vegetable crop can grow.“
Getting salicornia to work on a commercial scale is perhaps the missing linchpin that would make Seawater Solutions the embodiment of a land-base Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA). Break-even is obtained from the trading of carbon credits, a market that is in its early stages of development. The salicornia is fed by waste streams from shrimp farms, making the two quite compatible in a circular land-IMTA concept.
Not all Seawater Solutions projects will look the same. The group recently planted mangroves on the coast of Ghana to prevent further loss and even restore some of the West African country’s degraded coastline. Shell has been working alongside shrimp farmers in the Mekong Delta, promoting the circularity of salicornia as a complimentary crop for Vietnamese shrimp farmers. But he admits that the planting of vast acreages of salicornia in this intensely farmed area of Vietnam is not the same proposition as some of the company’s other deserted sites where nothing else is grown.
Left to Right: Samuel McKinnon, Yanik Nyberg (CEO, Seawater Solutions), Joella Korczak, Raphael Ahiakpe, Neal Spackman (CEO, Regenerative Resources), Rosemary Akpalu, Bright Adzagba, Monica Monyo, Chris Eccles
The company’s involvement in The Yield Lab Asia Pacific GAC gives them direct contact with world aquaculture experts, from mentors directly involved in honing the company’s pitch towards the Grand Finale on Oct. 7, to the global industry figureheads that have briefed the cohort during internal sessions.
Seawater Solutions’ concept, though visionary when it comes to salicornia, has been proven at scale at a site in Eritrea. The East African site was developed by Regenerative Resources, a company that has been close to Seawater Solutions, and managed several successful shrimp harvests before the site was abandoned in the violent clash with Ethiopia in 1998-2000, which also resulted in a regime change in the East African country.
Seawater Solutions hopes to build on the work that Regenerative Resources has done. Validating the circular model, and in particular the farming of salicornia as a circular complement to shrimp farming in tropical destinations, may change aquaculture as we know it.
6 Sep 2021.
Matt Craze and Oriana Aguillon, Spheric Research.