Marine Farming

Marine farming, or mariculture, is the cultivation of marine organisms for food and other products. It can be performed in places at different scales from the open ocean to a tank.

In 2018, commercial fishing acquired 84.4 M tons of marine organisms from the ocean. Though it’s still less than the peak happened in 1996 (86.4 M tons), continuous commercial fishing at a large scale had caused 34.2% of world fish stocks overfished, as of 2017. Overfishing is a major threat to the stability and health of entire marine ecosystems.

Should a challenge for boosting the development of marine farming for replacing all or most of activities of commercial fishing in the ocean be considered?

Interesting idea. Maybe we can limit it to just one type of fish - tuna, for example.

@donseville, @Dafni_Avgoustaki, @tylerferdinand, what are your thoughts on marine farming? If you agree this is an area XPRIZE should focus on in our Global Visioneering program, the objective of which is to design our next, $10M competition, please give this a vote!

I think the idea is also interesting, although I believe it will be faced with big challenges that existing marine farming practices experience such as sanitation and waste issues, invasive species, disruptive changes to local ecosystems and habitats, etc. But perhaps an XPRIZE to tackle exactly those kinds of challenges could certainly be an exciting one!

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Yes, for a challenge, the scope is supposed to be narrow down to certain type(s) of fish. Tuna may be a good target. It’s a billion-dollar business.

I wonder if we could focus on less-prominent species - maybe sharks or even whales.

Also, if it’s possible to produce tuna lab-meat, that could circumvent the idea of marine farming.

It’s true. Fish lab-meat is competing with this idea. These kinds of meat may become a competitive alternative of real meat in the future.

Hmm I’m worried this might overlap too much with the Feed The Next Billion prize currently in operation, incentivizing chicken and/or fish fillet alternatives?

Yup, they are competing. If the Tomorrow’s Proteins challenge can lead to a breakthrough of lab=meat on palatbility and price, the idea of marine farming might not be necessary. Alternatively, as @Roey pointed out, it might be used to restoration of certain species which may not fall into the scope of the Food domain.

Ahh yes interesting I hadn’t thought of the practice being used for the restoration of certain species, thank you @crointel!

Marine Farming should be defined as growing fish in open Ocean, not in cages or other enclosures.

The challenge would be to provide feed to grow fish in open waters.
The feed that is used in Aquaculture and Mariculture may not work in open waters, since it would disperse and wastage would be high. So new solutions to provide feed are required.

Can you explain what’s wrong with farming fish in cages or other enclosures?

If the problem is with the environmental damage such enclosures cause, why not simply ask the competitors for new fish farming techniques that eliminate nearly all waste and pollutants?

I love the idea of restoration of some species, even though I don’t recall coming up with it :slight_smile:

That said, I’m not sure how teams can demonstrate in a ~5 years competition lifetime, that they’ve restored a species.

Ahh… because you talked about “less-prominent species - maybe sharks or even whales”. If the chosen species for a challenge is not economically important, they might be
ecologically important. But it seems a misreading… :sweat_smile:


High infrastructure cost, cost of feed and nutrient pollution are the main problems with enclosures.

Feed contains nutrients, this cannot be eliminated. So we need to develop a solution to use the nutrients to grow the natural feed for the fish. This is the natural process.

On land too manure is used to grow crops.
No one discusses growing fish feed in water.


Good point, hopefully we have (or will) get input from an ocean experts on this matter, for example someone who works at NOAA Fisheries?

Some input would be great indeed. Do you know any experts on this subject?

@NickOttens, @SevagKechichian

@ginamason works at NOAA. We’d love your input on this!

@willsarni, you may have thoughts on this topic as well. Do you think it’s one XPRIZE should focus on?

Why fish?
Marine farming is not restricted to fish, already many species are farmed, particularly crustaceans, shellfish and seaweeds.

The challenge should be seaweed.

  • There are native species for every marine region that are palatable and full of nutrition, so the potential scale is immense and well worthy of an XPrize.
  • It’s low down the trophic chain, so efficient in inputs and outputs.
  • It stays where you put it (adults at least).
  • Growing it takes CO2 (and hence acidity) out of the surface water, thus improving the environment for other species.

I think there are two issues to overcome:

  1. Working in deeper water. Seaweeds naturally grow attached to solid things, mostly rocks. They must be near the surface to photosynthesize, and this combination restricts them to a very narrow coastal band where farming may compete with other uses (and aesthetics). So we need cost effective structures to anchor them near the surface in deeper, less contested water space.
  2. Labor input- seaweed farming as practised in the tropics is close to subsistence level, with most of the profit being extracted by industrial consumers (large Western FMCG companies) and supply-chain middlemen. We need inexpensive farming, harvesting and processing technologies that can be affordable at local scale and deliver a product which can be eaten locally and the surplus sold through raw food distribution channels.

Seaweed farming is interesting, especially it’s also relevant to Carbon Removal. In the entry of Seaweed Farming on Wikipedia, it says that:

There has been considerable discussion as to how seaweeds can be cultivated in the open ocean as a means to regenerate decimated fish populations and contribute to carbon sequestration. Notably, Tim Flannery has highlighted how growing seaweeds in the open ocean, facilitated by artificial upwelling and substrate, can enable carbon sequestration if seaweeds are sunk below a depth of one kilometer. Similarly, the NGO Climate Foundation and a number of permaculture experts have posited that the offshore mariculture of seaweed ecosystems can be conducted in ways that embody the core principles of permaculture, thereby constituting Marine Permaculture. The concept envisions using artificial upwelling and floating, submerged platforms as substrate to replicate natural seaweed ecosystems that provide habitat and the basis of a trophic pyramid for marine life. Following the principles of permaculture, seaweeds and fish can be sustainably harvested while sequestering atmospheric carbon. As of 2020, a number of successful trials have taken place in Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Tasmania. The idea has received substantial public attention, notably featuring as a key solution covered by Damon Gameau’s documentary 2040 and in the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming edited by Paul Hawken.

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