This year, one of the prestigious INDEX: Awards went to GreenWave, a New York based nonprofit whose polyculture ocean farming technique is designed to restore ecosystems, reimagine the food system and build a new blue-green economy. The floating farms mitigate climate change as well as feature structural solutions that withstand extreme weather conditions.

After dropping out of high school, GreenWave’s executive director and co-founder Bren Smith worked on commercial trawlers and soon saw the need to address the detrimental effect industrial overfishing is having on ocean ecosystems. He went on to develop a model that would revive underwater life rather than ravage it. The organisation has now perfected an open-source farming system that not only provides a sustainable source of food and creates jobs for fishermen, but also has a negative carbon footprint and rebuilds reef ecosystems. An innovative and practical application of design thinking principles.

Hurricane proof

The hurricane proof vertical farms cultivate restorative crops of seaweed and shellfish, including oysters that balance nitrogen levels and fast growing kelp that absorbs five times more carbon dioxide than plants on land. GreenWave provides land-based infrastructure and support for anyone who wants to set up a new farm and promises to purchase 80% of their crops over five years, at triple the market rate. Those crops are then sold to restaurants across the United States. “We hope to weave these new principles into the DNA of this industry. This is our chance to really design a food system from the bottom up,” Smith says.

INDEX: Award Jury Member Anders Smith verbalized the jury’s appreciation: “From hunter-gatherers to farmers of the ocean. GreenWave shows how we can sustainably feed the world.”

Climate Action Challenge

GreenWave is a beautiful example of a project that addresses all aspects of climate action: it is adaptive to new weather circumstances, mitigates climate change, and raises awareness for the need to change our food system. If you happen to have an idea like this too, don’t hesitate to enter it to the WDCD Climate Action Challenge. You have until 24 September.