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Kelp, the maritime help

One of the core principles of regenerative agriculture is NOT to use external inputs. However, there are situations where you simply can’t ask a farmer to wait for nature to recover. The transition to a full regenerative system can demand a little stimulus. Together with Kelp Blue, reNature is exploring the use of cultivated kelp to kickstart regenerative practices on heavily degraded farmland.

Soil degradation beyond repair

In our current ways of farming, the increasing food demand leads to more chemical input, which is simply an inefficient long-term solution. It makes sense that a farmer believes that only chemicals will make his land prosperous again. This has been the ‘proven’ practice for years. You have to make a radical change to break from such a downwards circle of inputs. 

The use of cultivated kelp in regenerative agriculture can serve as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. 

In order to restore agricultural productivity and achieve food security for the growing population, a new sustainable approach is needed for agriculture. Moving to decrease dependence on chemical fertilizers, reNature, in partnership with Kelp Blue and the Kelp Forest Foundation, seeks to design and implement a system applying biostimulants made from cultivated kelp in regenerative agriculture. This solution is underpinned by growing momentum in the use of seaweed-based bioproducts in crop production systems, owing to their unique bioactive components and effects.

Cultivated giant kelp as a bio-stimulant

Regenerative agriculture leads to healthy soil and is capable of producing high-quality, nutrient-dense food while simultaneously improving, rather than degrading land, ultimately resulting in more productive farms, healthier communities, and stronger economies. Among other benefits, regenerative agriculture contributes to: 

  • topsoil regeneration,
  • increasing biodiversity,
  • improving the water cycle,
  • enhancing ecosystem services,
  • supporting bio-sequestration,
  • increasing resilience to climate change, and
  • strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil.

As soil health improves, input requirements decrease, and crop yields increase, considering that the soil is then more resilient against extreme weather and harbors fewer pests and pathogens. The improved richness and diversity of soil can impact ecosystem function. Hence, a regenerative agriculture system increases not only soil biodiversity but also food production, farmers’ income, and especially topsoil fertility.

Why choose kelp as a biostimulant?

Although reNature is all about nature-based solutions, severely degraded land does not repair fast enough to make it profitable. A biostimulant such as kelp can help. Giant kelp, scientifically known as Macrocystis pyrifera, is one of the fastest-growing organisms on the planet. It is well suited for use in a range of products, from high-quality pharma/nutraceuticals to biostimulants, animal feed, packaging, dietary supplements, and textiles. 

The cultivation of kelp requires no fertilizers, pesticides, land, or freshwater. Growing the marketplace for existing kelp products as well as using giant kelp derivatives to displace environmentally damaging alternatives will help restore the planet’s equilibrium. Also amongst the benefits, kelp biostimulant:

  • is 100% organic;
  • improves water retention and nitrogen-fixing of soils; and
  • comprises compounds that improve resilience to climatic stressors, including phlorotannins, which increase antioxidant activity.

Kelp’s CO2 and biodiversity bonus

Kelp has the ability to draw down more CO2 than terrestrial forests while boosting marine biodiversity and improving fish stocks, as well as soil biodiversity when applied as a biostimulant in agriculture. 

Kelp Blue, the commercial associate of the Kelp Forest Foundation and biotech partner in this solution, plans to cultivate Great Barrier Reef-sized underwater rainforests in half a dozen locations around the world. These kelp forests will capture CO2 and improve biodiversity on a global scale. 

Moving cultivation out of sheltered waters and into the open ocean ensures that CO2 sequestration takes place in the deep ocean sediments, making its scale and permanence unparalleled. It also allows the creation of a new ecosystem that boosts biodiversity. Giant kelps are a nautical maternity room and host around 800 species, from micro- to macro-, from residential to globetrotters like the humpback whale. The kelp rainforests are 20m high, and only the top 1-2m of the canopy is harvested, leaving the ecosystem intact year-round.

Harvesting cultivating giant kelp

The harvested kelp is processed using techniques designed to have minimal impact on the environment. The kelp-based products provide affordable, sustainable replacements for more environmentally damaging alternatives (chemical fertilizers). Kelp Blue’s operations also provide sustainable employment and economic independence to fragile coastal communities. The profit derived from the kelp-based products makes the cultivation commercially viable, attracting the sizable capital investments required for scaling up to global impact.

In this way, the cultivation of kelp at scale has a triple impact on the health of the planet and people: 

  1. growing kelp in itself improves the environment;
  2. kelp products displace environmentally damaging agricultural and industrial practices; and
  3. kelp cultivation at scale provides sustainable, alternative employment to coastal communities, thereby reducing stress on oceans.

Our partnership goal is to scale the application of cultivated kelp in a wide range of regenerative agriculture projects while contributing to reNature’s ambition to transition 2% (10M) of all farmers and 2% (100M ha) of all farmland to regenerative agriculture by 2030