Seaweed farming initiatives of colossal proportions are taking root in the Philippines and beyond, with the allure of Elon Musk’s “largest incentive prize in history.” However, manipulating the ocean for seaweed cultivation raises concerns among some scientists.
In the Pacific Ocean, a white metal platform meets a smaller one, where engineers like Sam Donohue and Gorio Pepito operate intricate systems to grow seaweed. The process involves lowering and raising large metal rings into the water, each supporting countless lines that facilitate seaweed growth. This ambitious endeavor is the brainchild of Brian von Herzen, who envisions it as a solution to numerous global challenges.
Brian von Herzen, the Climate Foundation’s founder and director, believes that seaweed cultivation can address pressing issues such as food scarcity, ecosystem restoration, and climate change mitigation. His initiative earned the Climate Foundation the $1 million Milestone award from Elon Musk’s Xprize foundation.
A prototype ring located near Cebu City in the Philippines resembles a massive pizza with a dozen slices and a 40-meter diameter. This innovative platform, submerged in cooler water and abundant nutrients, nurtures the growth of seaweed. However, the seaweed also requires sunlight for photosynthesis, prompting Pepito and Donohue to raise the ring to the surface daily.
Seaweed plays a vital role in sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. To combat global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasizes the importance of CO2 sequestration. Seaweed, like trees and other methods, offers a promising avenue for carbon storage.
While seaweed farming holds significant promise, there are lingering questions about its long-term effectiveness as a CO2 sink and associated risks. Despite these uncertainties, innovative projects like the one in the Philippines are pushing the boundaries of climate change mitigation and food security. As scientists continue to explore seaweed cultivation’s potential, it may emerge as a critical tool in our efforts to protect the planet.