Farms under the sea could feed the world in 2050

This small mussel farm off the coast of California is a window into the future of feeding the planet. – You can feed a vast majority of the world’s populations on mussels alone. Earth’s population is growing so fast that we’ll need to produce more food in the next 50 years than we’ve raised in the last 10,000. – People are really actively looking towards the ocean for the future. Oceans cover more than two thirds of the earth’s surface. But right now, they produce just 2% of our food. – You can’t take any more fish out of the ocean. You’ve got to grow it. Phil Cruver is part of a new wave of entrepreneurs proving ocean farms can help feed the world without destroying the environment. I’m Erik Olsen. This is Quartz. – This is historic. It will be the first time we’ve had a harvest in U.S. federal waters in the United States in history. Phil Cruver started and sold several tech businesses before deciding to farm the waters off of Los Angeles. – The carrying capacity out here is just enormous. Right now, the mussels caught at the Catalina Sea Ranch are just a tiny 100 acre experiment. – We’re starting off with mussels as our cash crop because they don’t get disease, there’s a lot less risk factors, they grow faster. Currently, almost all the food we eat comes from the land, but that’s resource intensive. – 29% of the Earth’s surface is land and 40% of that arable land, we produce food on. That’s immense amounts of space for something that we could do in a much smaller amount of space in the ocean. Growing food on land is also a dirty business. Worldwide, livestock accounts for about 15% of human induced greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also very inefficient and expensive. – It requires anywhere between six to seven pounds of feed to get out one pound of cow, right. And so that requires an immense amount of water and land and other resources. So many are looking to the sea to help feed the world. But overfishing has left much of the oceans pushed to their biological limits. We are at a point now that scientists call ‘Peak Fish’. – So ‘Peak Fish’ means when did we get to a point where we no longer were able to take more out of the ocean. – But the amount of fish we’re catching is plateauing. The oceans aren’t getting any cleaner. We have enough fishing boats, we have way too many fishing boats out there right now. Most of the fish that’s farmed at the moment are finfish like salmon and carp. They’re fed with a diet of fish lower in the food chain, which means more fishing is needed to feed the fish we eat. Nearly one-third of the global marine fish catch goes to feed farmed fish. – Right now, they’re getting it at as low as one to one. So one pound of feed for one pound of fish. That’s a lot better than land animals, but mussels can do even better. You don’t have to feed them at all. They just filter their food from the water. – Mussels are good to farm for a variety of reasons. First, a lot of the things you associate with bad farming on land — cramped quarters, use of questionable foods, use of different chemicals — you don’t need that for mussels. Mussels like tight spaces, they don’t need a lot of antibiotics, and they don’t need any food. They can also clean up the water. Ryan Bigelow runs operations for Seafood Watch, a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that promotes sustainable seafood. He says aquaculture, especially with shrimp and salmon, has had a bad reputation for pollution spreading disease and other environmental impacts. In some countries, these remain big problems, but new companies are showing it can be done well. – Fish farming is by no means a perfect business. There have been issues in the past with everything from escapes to pollution, to the destruction of mangroves. And some of those things still do happen. But the difference now between aquaculture, even 15, 20 years ago, is that they’re our best performers. And aquaculture has a lot of room to grow in the U.S. – So right now, 90% of all aquaculture happens in Southeast Asia. China is 60% of that production. Norway and Chile are some of the largest finfish producers in the world for Atlantic Salmon. A big reason is regulations. The U.S. hasn’t allowed aquaculture in federal waters. Until now. Phil thinks that means there’s a huge opportunity here. Several companies are already planning to open aquaculture farms in California, waiting to see if he’s successful. Today’s harvest is small, just 1000 pounds. Back at the pier in Los Angeles Harbor the mussels go directly to a seafood distributor and then to fish markets around Southern California, ending up on people’s plates. But for this kind of farming to feed the world, it has to overcome another challenge. – People have to want to eat mussels. And especially in the U.S. they don’t really. – Perception, a lot of people asked they said, “What is it for, bait?” They don’t understand the nutrition and the tastiness of mussels. So it’s gonna be a big branding challenge. We need Leonardo DiCaprio to eat a pizza with mussels on it, rather than sausage, showing the sustainability. But even without Leo, tastes may be changing. – At least in the last I’d say 12 to 14 months, customer requests for mussels, like these, have almost tripled. Mike Ungaro is selling Phil’s mussels at his market. – So we are now seeing a huge increase in the demand, and to have a locally sourced product like this that’s high quality and literally right off the coast, I think customers are going to go crazy for it. Feeding the planet’s next two billion people will mean changing where we farm and how we farm. It will require new technology and better tools, and an open mind to trying new food. Hey, I’m Preeti Varathan with Quartz. So, are you ready to eat more mussels to save the environment? Let us know in the comments, And subscribe to the Quartz channel for more videos like this one.

100 thoughts on “Farms under the sea could feed the world in 2050”

  1. Actually… Human are so greedy.. The more money u have.. The more greedy u get.. The more thing u wants without any purposes.. Just to show off..

  2. umm there is a large population of the earth that can not eat mussels… but if you control the government, you can throw them in jail if they refuse right? for the good of all, religious rights must be trampled… right?

  3. I love mussels, delicious and cheap, but feed the world? doubtful.. why? because climate change heating the oceans is causing many unexpected things to happen in the waters. Mainly blooms of very dangerous bacteria. Look no further than Florida this past two years, red tide blooms killing everything, and this year, flesh eating bacteria. this is just the beginning. And eating a filter feeder would be nothing short of ingesting such bad bacteria. Their job is to cleans the water indeed, but we should only be eating mussels farmed in clean waters. And thats every decreasing.

  4. Keep it cheap and fresh and I’ll eat the hell out of them. I don’t now cuz they are to expensive in the foothills of ca

  5. only if they can control the quality of the water.. and lets face it, we also dump a lot of other human made garbage into the ocean too

  6. All clam kinda species which includes oysters, clams, mussels, and the many more are a NO for me.

    They are dirty in the sense that they feed on all sorts of food be it floating or on the base of the ocean floor especially Cockle !

  7. Mussels are amazing. I like shellfish. More importantly these farmers should put a lot of their resources cleaning the ocean.

  8. A new wave, same old BS – can't run a surface farms , same folks want to trash de ocean, opps already have.. I can hardly wait, the water already stinks in Socal , not even worth surfing- what idiots.. swimming in scat .l

  9. Seems like the easiest way to solve this issue is to seriously invest in durable condoms and the creation of plan C.personally I am waiting for Thanos. I hate sea food


  11. Till a red tide happens…

    This farming stuff wasn't that new, actually, it has been here for years, it just that the US is a bit late for this.

  12. I have not researched enough into GMOs but can they be another form of source to food? I have heard on how some percentage of the potato chips we eat are GMOs obviously junk food isn’t a great example since they aren’t good for us in the first place. But has there be any case studies on if GMOs can be an effective and healthy form of food source. Because there have been private companies conducting research on beef and apples. Also would cloning be an effective source of food. Obviously there is “problems” or morals with cloning stuff but it is also another look to creating food. There is also KRISPER (I believe they are a genetic modification company) instead of research human genes can’t they research on genes that maybe can make our food source like wheat and other grains more effective. Like taking less area to produce, less water, and resources, and grow more at the same time. There are so many possibilities out there. So instead of blaming which country does what bad, instead try to come up with ways to solve a problem.

  13. hahahaaha stupid americans and your small steps to save the earth. the more you buy the more polar bears you save! the problem is consumption. until you wind the clock back on standards of living and population levels 250 years you’re going to have a resource and pollution imbalance. a global high mortality plague is humanity’s best chance at real change.

  14. I love mussels, especially with creamy garlic sauce. Good in seafood soups too….
    Also let us take 1 children at max two per couple. We cannot afford human population to go double digit by any means.

  15. "We will need to produce more food in the next 50 years than we have raised in the last 10.000". That is insane. Can you share the source of these number please?

  16. You don't have to ask Belgians twice to start eating more mussels! MOULES FRITES for everyone!!!! <3

  17. Is it possible to farm clams in a similarly sustainable way?

    I'm happy for the many people who enjoy eating mussels, but dishes that they've loved I've loathed. You'd have to pay me (exorbitantly) to eat mussels.

  18. I already love mussels hahaha glad to see my appetite is helpful towards the environment. Shame it's more difficult to find in American supermarkets than preferable

  19. Been farming mussels in Europe for at least 50/60 years maybe more …..the world 🌎…… makes me grieve ….how can we just keep the population just expanding like that ? Unsustainable it will mean planetary destruction

  20. Oceans are to polluted to eat from regularly now, I can't imagine how bad it will be in 2050. Not to mention eating unclean animals with higher levels of toxins

  21. Plant a garden. Not much but a few billion people all planting a bit would be great for the air and food supply. Get with a local church and fire department and have volunteers plant local gardens.

  22. I'd need quite a lot of mussels to get full off it. Might as well grow nothing but rice and survive off rice alone to save seafood and stop raising animals on land.

  23. "farms under the sea" Fantastic, we finally managed to find a way to displace fish from their natural habitat and colonize the oceans. The only reason why there are so many fish compared to land animals is because humans have yet to build anything really big (like a city or a town) in the ocean. Just look at how many blue whales we killed in the 20th century. Or compare the historic ranges of animals to their modern time.

  24. What about planta and the bacteria that muscles feed on how do they survive with the pollution in the sea? What about the vitamins that we need? Do we get them from seafood? So many questions.

  25. Yu r kidding right? With climate change the ocean will be way to erratic with temperature and gas content to grow anything, just like on land.

  26. Mussel farms are good up to a point – the feed they eat includes the spawn of local finfish. If the density of mussel farms becomes high, they suppress other marine populations, and mussel growth rates plateau. NZ has been farming them for decades, especially in the Marlborough Sounds.

  27. Is it just me or does anyone else feel a bit suffocated looking at this I kept wondering about the oxygen content of that area
    does anyone know anything abt oxygen intake of the mussels?
    are those at 3:20 ard the mussels aquatic plants?

  28. Moules frites – two pounds of mussles in creamy wine shallot sauce with french fires on the side. It's heavenly.

  29. Yah! i eat mussels! tasty AF! and would love to cut out all land meat to save earth anyday!
    Poison me with our garbage! i'd do it if it was the best solution, to a multi pronged planet saving solution, anyday! i am human and don't mind taking the blame as a whole of my species – like an intelligent altruistic species would do in a cool science fiction movie about aliens that we can learn from –
    yay our brains!
    wait,, are their bad chemicals in them? i mean, doesn't the liver filter garbage? and ….uh, last i checked, liver is a kinda-super-food eh?
    boo people with tinny sized emotional-IQ! but it's not their fault their empathetic-bubble doesn't extend past their own dumb gut – can't blame a wild animal for illiteracy, am i write?
    just hang in there smart ones! … keep thinking of a way to convince the plebeians- and we can save our big juicy human filled rock, i mean, earth! yay!

  30. Are you producing water?
    Does water disappear after plant or animal ingest it?
    Those claims are for really stupid people
    Water does not disappear
    Water is not limited as such
    Water cycle for (claims of scientists, which I personally do not agree with) billions of years (I think this is 6000 years, but that is my opinion)
    Suddenly in last few decades water magically disappears right after it gets to plant or animal
    This is such stupid claim

  31. world population growth is slowing down. estimates are that the population will peak at between 10 and 11 million. death rate will match birth rate.

  32. Testing for contaminated mussels because they filter their food. Plastic contamination in the molecular scale is a thing now. Have we ruined our chances before they got started?

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