Our vision is to lead by example with a commercially viable business which not only delivers 3D ocean farming off the Welsh coast, but also helps the people of Pembrokeshire through job creation and a route into a career in the Welsh seafood sector, which we see as an industry of growing national importance.
Our desire to see a change in farming was driven by the belief that land-based food production is in crisis - driven by climate change and population increase. Land-based agriculture contributes 24 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions - more than transportation (11 per cent), and just as much as burning fossil fuels (25 percent). Wild fisheries cannot bear the burden: fish stocks are either fully fished or overfished.
We see one of the solutions as 3D ocean farming which grows a mix of seaweeds and shellfish without the need for fertiliser, pesticide, or freshwater - making it the most sustainable form of food production on the planet. Our farming also sequesters carbon and rebuilds reef ecosystems as the farms sit below the surface and leverage the entire water column, therefore producing high yields with a small footprint.
Some of our crops are all wild harvested, the rest are grown on the farms. These are used as food (bought by individuals and local restaurants), fertiliser, animal feed and cosmetics. We believe that, as awareness of the need for sustainable farming grows, the demand for the services and products will increase - especially as there is increasing concern about people’s wellbeing and our climate.
Without a doubt, our biggest asset is our members and supporters – an exceptional group of like-minded people with an incredible mix of skills, expertise, generosity, and commitment to the aims of the society.
We hope to inspire and educate others into developing similar initiatives which not only improve the coastal environment in Wales, but also support local communities. The vision is very achievable as farms are a potentially open source: anyone with consent to farm a few acres of sea, a boat, and £25,000 could be up and running within one year.
There are so many reasons to support 3D ocean farming:
• Restorative and regenerative
• Requires zero inputs (no fresh water, fertilizer, feed, land)
• Sequesters carbon and nitrogen
• Provides storm surge protection
• Rebuilds marine ecosystems
• Provides organic produce to local communities
• Supports local economy through job creation
Research is ongoing, but it is thought it could provide cattle feed that contains one per cent seaweed which can reduce methane output by 58 per cent.
Useful learnings from Car-y-Mor
You should look to others for inspiration – we modelled ourselves from the work of Greenwave in Maine, USA, which helps train and support ocean farmers in the era of climate change, working with coastal communities around the world to create a blue economy. It is built and led by farmers.
Work with like-minded people. Our team is the backbone of what we do. It’s been amazing to benefit from the input of so many skilled individuals who have found us. Once you put yourself out there, it’s surprising how many people find you and want to help.
Community engagement is also so important. You have to link with community groups in order to raise awareness. We did talks with all sorts of people to try and engage them with our ideas. Although, the likelihood is that you won’t bring everyone on board straight away. There can be an element of ‘not in my back yard’, but if you make it an open conversation where people can raise their queries and concerns, you’ll find that most feedback is positive in the end.
We are a Community Benefit Society and very few individuals or organisations actually know what this is or what it means, which can prove to be a challenge. We’ve found that this causes problems sometimes because people don’t know what box we fit into. From an administrative and bureaucratic point of view, this can be frustrating and cause delays and confusion. If you’re thinking of doing the same, be ready for this before you start.
Licensing processes can also be long and arduous. Again, there can be a lack of support or understanding. Officials don’t always appreciate farming seasons – and so their deadlines won't always match yours. Nature doesn’t work to deadlines or care about paperwork and getting people to understand this can be a challenge.
Selling seaweed as a concept can be tricky – not all restaurants know what they can do with it. We’ve found that selling crab or lobster is a way in, and then you can introduce and educate about the benefits of seaweed as a food.
Lastly, volunteers have been crucial to your success, but you also have to appreciate that they have lives outside the farm too. They can’t always be available for you, so bear that in mind in your planning.
We also measure the volume of sustainable seafood produced.