by Nell Lewis, CNN Business
Ocean farming is in the “stone ages,” according to Shrikumar Suryanarayan, co-founder and CEO of Bangalore, India-based Sea6 Energy. “It’s like using a trowel and a pick to farm land.”
Just as tractors did for agriculture, Sea6 Energy wants to mechanize ocean farming with its SeaCombine, an automated catamaran that simultaneously harvests and replants seaweed in the ocean. The machine travels back and forth between lines of seaweed, harvesting the fully-grown plants and replacing them with freshly seeded lines. Each SeaCombine unit is designed to farm about 50 hectares of the ocean surface.
A prototype is currently deployed at the company’s seaweed farm off the coast of Indonesia. As the technology develops and the market widens, the company intends to deploy more SeaCombines, including in its home country.
Dr. Suryanarayan hopes the SeaCombine will cut costs and make seaweed cheaper, so it can be more widely used. Doing this won’t hurt local livelihoods, he believes, as village cooperatives could lease the machinery, allowing them to farm a larger area.
The SeaCombine is just “a tool” in Sea6 Energy’s wider operation, says Dr. Suryanarayan. The company, which has raised $20 million in funding since its founding in 2010, currently uses the seaweed harvested by the machine to manufacture products including animal feed and agricultural fertilizer on a small scale.
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