Climate Foundation: Marine Permaculture (2022)


The Problem: Food Insecurity in a Changing Climate​

Climate Foundation: Marine Permaculture (1)

(Video) Marine Permaculture with Dr. Brian Von Herzen | R-FUTURE 2022

​When talk turns to how we are damaging the planet, the phrase “carbon footprint” is often heard. These conversations tend to be depressing, negative and hardly inspirational. At the Climate Foundation, we have been working on a positive, motivational approach. So instead of talking about “carbon footprints” we develop “carbon handprints”—in other words, innovations that can help the planet. The goal is to make our carbon handprints bigger than our carbon footprints. We see this approach as critical to building the energy and momentum needed to chart our way to a sustainable future. One example of this work is the Climate Foundation’s efforts in the oceans.

The global fish catch has dropped 23% per person in the past 25 years. This drop in productivity comes at a time when fishermen are exerting more effort than ever to catch fish. In developing regions like China fishing effort is up a staggering 2500% over the last two decades. What’s more, over four fifths of the world’s fisheries are either considered fully exploited, with no room for safely increasing the catch, or they are already overfished and in need of rebuilding.

To understand one of the reasons for this decline in catch, we have to move down the aquatic food chain. The ocean’sprimary productivity is the rate that plants convert carbon into organic material through the process of photosynthesis. Globally, this rate is on the decline, by some estimates as much as 40% since the 1950’s.

Much of this decline in productivity is thought to be caused by the warming of the oceans. Over 90% of global warming today occurs in the world’s oceans in the form of a thickening layer of warm water near the surface. This layer creates an unnatural barrier to the upwelling of nutrients vital for plankton growth. In turn, plankton is a critical food source for many fish.

The Solution:

Marine Permaculture Offshore Executive Summary - August 2019

Climate Foundation: Marine Permaculture (2)

If we could restore the natural level of upwelling, we could restore primary production in the oceans and help restore ocean fisheries. And there might be an additional benefit to this effort. Phytoplankton take in CO2 in the same way that land-based plants do. So increased phytoplankton production could lead to a surge in the sequestration of this greenhouse gas—think “carbon handprint.”

Vegetarian fish are considered to be among the healthiest proteins, and the potential demand for this food source is huge. How can we restore global fisheries, while at the same time provide enough fish to help feed the world and measure the resulting carbon sequestration? Over the past decade the Climate Foundation, led by Dr. Brian von Herzen, has been working to develop ways to restore ocean upwelling using renewable energy. In 2008, Dr. von Herzen was featured in a Discovery Channel documentary on restoring ocean productivity. Working with two preeminent plankton experts, Dr. von Herzen demonstrated the use of wave-driven pumps to upwell nutrients and grow plankton in a portion of the Pacific Ocean 100 kilometers north of Hawaii. In just 57 hours after deployment, the system sparked plankton growth. Shortly thereafter, these blooms attracted various species of fish. Two weeks later, a 17-foot long whale shark was still circling the area feeding on plankton that had started blooming.

Building on that success, the Climate Foundation team has developed larger “marine permaculture” systems (patent pending). These floating platforms use wave energy to restore nutrient upwelling to pre- global warming levels. While the nutrients encourage plankton and kelp growth, the platform provides a structure onto which kelp will attach. In essence, this forms a mini-ecosystem. The kelp forest will provide habitat for forage fish, who will feed off the replenished plankton. Game fish will, in turn, eat these forage fish, and on up the food chain to tuna and sharks. What was once an aquatic desert will thrive with life.

These platforms will be placed at a depth of 25 meters, making them safe for navigation. They can be traversed by the largest ocean-going vessels without harm to either the vessel or the structure. This depth placement also ensures that these platforms will be able to withstand adverse weather conditions, including even the most severe hurricane. After an initial maintenance period, the marine permaculture platform is designed to operate without human intervention for up to three years at a time.

Over the past five years, the Climate Foundation has been conducting research with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution regarding the use of mesoscale cyclones that are 2 km (1.2 mi) to 50 km (6.2 mi) in diameter to navigate marine permaculture platforms. For example, at any given time there are hundreds of mesoscale cyclones circulating in the Pacific Ocean, some of which may last for months. We envision dozens of platforms riding these mesoscale cyclones, in much the same way that some birds ride thermal waves, providing a food delivery service in areas that would otherwise comprise an aquatic desert.

(Video) Dr. Brian Von Herzen, founder of the Climate Foundation, on Marine Permaculture - Jul 20, 2022

Marine Permaculture Phase 2:
We were chosen out of a field of 220 organizations by Australia’s Dept of Foreign Affairs and the Blue Economy Challenge to deploy a Marine Permaculture array in the Indian Ocean to validate the technical benefits. In this phase, we demonstrated the biological response of commercially relevant macroalgae to deep water upwelled to the surface.

Climate Foundation: Marine Permaculture (3)

Marine Permaculture Phase 3a:
The Climate Foundation is testing and deploying the Phase 3a Marine Permaculture with the objective of reviving the seaweed farm economy hand-in-hand with local cooperatives and local government. In the Philippines, there are over 90,000 seaweed farmers who depend on seaweed production, and 2,000 in our deployment location. Having obtained a permit for Marine Permaculture operations, The Climate Foundation is working closely with fishermen, seaweed farmers and local skilled workers to prepare for deployment.

As a first step of Phase 3a, we are creating a comparison of a how a spinosum and cottonii seaweed farm would benefit from the upwelled cool water and nutrients compared with an experimental control in which another spinosum and cottonii seaweed farm without irrigation would behave. Once we have demonstrated favourable growth rates of spinosum and cottonii throughout the typically non-productive seaweed growing season (Jan-May), we will begin scaling for Phases 3b, 3c and 4.

(Video) Science Stories: Marine Permaculture 2020

Phase 4 will comprise scaling self-guided 100-hectare Marine Permaculture arrays offshore.

Collaboration with local partners will enable the Climate Foundation to reach the communities that are (a) in need of technology and seedling supply chains to increase production of cottonii, (b) and highly dependent upon seaweed farming for their livelihoods, (c) value chain creation development of liquid extract supply and (d) in need to transform to eco friendly farming methods. Thousands of farmers’ livelihoods are under threat due to climate change reducing yields. Marine Permaculture irrigation of existing seaweed farms has the potential to restore and drive seaweed growth quickly, which will accelerate ecosystem service regeneration and provide an early revenue stream for community members who harvest and sell seaweed.

Wealso expect that these platforms to potentially comprise ecotourism destinations, considering the abundant and diverse sea life that will be found near them. This opens up the possibility of an additional funding model for platform building, deployment, and maintenance.

Efforts like marine permaculture mitigate global warming while restoring ecosystems and ensuring food security for billions of people through this century. Please join us in making ecosystem “handprints” that can help us realize a more sustainable world while feeding burgeoning populations.

Photo "Sardines in the Kelp"by David Abercrombie

In The News:

The Journal by Intrepid Travel
Seaweed: The climate change solution nobody expected
By, Kira Day | April 12, 2019

The Drawdown Agenda
Episode 8: Marine Permaculture with Brian Von Herzen


Climate Offensive

Episode 113: A Regenerative Future with Matt Powers
Podcast: Kira Day| October 29, 2018

Global Aquaculture Alliance

(Video) Climate Change Solutions Challenge: Marine Permaculture - Climate Foundation

Ocean Permaculture: Air Conditioning for warming seas
By Twilight Greenaway July 24 2017

Shirtloads of Science

Marine Permaculture (Brian von Herzen) (Episode 29)
Podcast: Dr. Karl |May 7, 2017

Journal of Applied Phycology

Consumption of Seaweeds and the Human Brain
ByM.LynnCornish. lanT.Critchley, andOleG.Mouritsen | PublishedJanuary 20, 2017

​National Geographic:

From Seaweed to Fish Feed, How Aquaculture Meets the Future
By April Fulton|PublishedOctober 5, 2016


Innovation Change:
Announcing the Winners of the Blue Economy Challenge
ByKendra Yoshinaga| Published: September 16, 2016

(Video) Brian Von Herzen, Founder of Climate Foundation: Reversing Climate Change #34

Interested in your own marine permaculture?

The Climate Foundation is pleased to offerpilot-scale Marine Permaculture(TM) to those organizations who wish to operate pilot-scale Marine Permacultures(TM) at their locations.​


What are the advantages of marine permaculture? ›

Marine permaculture could provide food, fuel and fertiliser for the 9 billion people that are likely to inhabit the planet by 2040. It has the potential to improve the livelihoods of local marine communities and bolster their economy by creating an entire industry around kelp and seaweed farming.

Is kelp a seaweed? ›

Kelp is a large, brown seaweed that typically grows in shallow saltwater near coastal areas around the world. You can eat it raw, cooked, as a powder, and it's included in a number of supplements.

Is seaweed farmed? ›

China, Indonesia, and the Philippines lead the world in volume of production, but seaweed farming can be found in many countries, including Tanzania, Sweden, Chile, and the United States. Most farms operate in shallow coastal waters, competing for space with fishers and other uses.

What is marine permaculture simple? ›

But we hear you asking, what is Marine Permaculture? Put simply, it involves the creation of ocean forests of kelp and seaweed. The fastest types of brown seaweed regenerate at a rate of half a metre per day, making it the fastest growing tree on the planet, which is extraordinary!

What does the Climate Foundation do? ›

Paving the way for a net-zero world. The European Climate Foundation is dedicated to responding to the global climate crisis by creating a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions society. We harness the power of effective philanthropy to support the climate community in shaping public debate and forging bold solutions.

Who should not take kelp? ›

Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism have been linked to too much kelp intake. This is due to its high amount of iodine. Abnormal thyroid function has also been linked directly to too much use of kelp supplements. Kelp may contain harmful metals.

Which is healthier seaweed or kelp? ›

Sea kelp is a fantastic source of vitamins, as is seaweed. However, sea kelp can often have large and ranging levels of iodine which can be harmful. Whereas the seaweed harvested by Seaweed & Co. is fully traceable and sustainable and is the world's only DNA Authenticated Seaweed.

Is spirulina and kelp the same? ›

Spirulina is a small, single-celled microorganism that's rich in chlorophyll, a plant pigment that gives so many lakes and ponds their dark blue-green color. Kelp, in contrast, is a brown algae that grows only in the sea.

What are the disadvantages of seaweed farming? ›

Risks prosed by seaweed aquaculture, according to the report, include the potential loss of benthic habitat to equipment such as anchors that are needed to establish seaweed farms and the possibility of marine mammals and other large species becoming entangled in the lines.

Which country produces the most seaweed? ›

Indonesia is the world's largest seaweed producer but why are prices so volatile? Over a million coastal people in Indonesia rely on income from seaweed farming, contributing to the country's rapidly expanding seaweed industry.

Does seaweed remove CO2? ›

A type of seaweed known as kelp is being developed for its nutritional value and its ability to absorb and lock away huge quantities of carbon dioxide. Seaweed absorbs CO2 more effectively than trees. It also improves water quality by extracting harmful nutrients such as nitrogen from the sea.

What does seaweed restore in the ocean? ›

Seaweed farms absorb nutrients and carbon dioxide to grow. The farms can help improve water quality and buffer the effects of ocean acidification in surrounding areas.

How is GCF funded? ›

GCF can structure its financial support through a flexible combination of grant, concessional debt, guarantees or equity instruments to leverage blended finance and crowd-in private investment for climate action in developing countries.

How much money is in the green climate fund? ›

As of 31 July 2020, the Green Climate Fund has raised USD 10.3 billion equivalent in pledges from 49 countries/regions/cities.
Announced$187 M
Confirmed$187 M
Announced per capita$7.92
Emissions per capita17
46 more columns

Who funds climate research? ›

EPA funds climate change research grants to improve knowledge of the health and environment effects of climate change, and provide sustainable solutions for communities to effectively manage and reduce the impacts of a changing climate.

Who created marine permaculture? ›

In permaculture masterclass #20, I am delighted to be joined by the originator of Marine Permaculture, Brian von Herzen, PhD, founder of the non-profit Climate Foundation to explore these questions and more.

What is in seaweed? ›

Seaweed contains many antioxidants in the form of certain vitamins (A, C, and E) and protective pigments. It has a decent amount of iodine, a trace mineral vital for the health and function of the thyroid. Some seaweeds, such as purple laver, contain a good amount of B12 as well.


1. Seaweed: The next (re)generation
(The Intrepid Foundation)
2. Stanford Seminar - Brian von Herzen of The Climate Foundation
(Stanford Online)
3. Ocean Permaculture with Brian von Herzen
(Biodiversity for a Livable Climate)
4. Marine Permaculture with Dr Brian von Herzen & Morag Gamble
(Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life)
5. Marine Permaculture and Sea Forestation with Brian von Herzen
(Systems Change Alliance)
6. Marine Permaculture with Brian von Herzen and Morag Gamble (Ep:37)
(Sense-Making in a Changing World)

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