Farm Food Facts

Aquaculture as a Climate Solution

June 29, 2021 USFRA Episode 108
Farm Food Facts
Aquaculture as a Climate Solution
Show Notes Transcript

Donna Lanzetta is an attorney and entrepreneur with a passion for sustainable seafood production. Motivated by a concern for our world’s growing population, our declining wild fish stocks, and the urgent need to feed our growing numbers, Manna Fish Farms (Manna) is currently awaiting permits to operate a sustainable and transparent fish farm, and to research Integrated Multi Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) off the Eastern Coast of The United States. 

Phil:

Welcome to Farm Food Facts. Today, a different kind of climate solution. It's all about aquaculture . My guest is Donna Lanzetta, an attorney and entrepreneur with a passion for sustainable seafood production. She's motivated by a concern for our world. Growing population are declining wild fish docks, and the urgent need to feed our growing numbers. Manna Fish farms is currently awaiting permits to operate a sustainable and transparent fish farm and to research integrated multi trophic aquaculture off the Eastern coast of the United States. Donna, welcome to Farm Food Facts.

Donna:

Thank you Phil.

Phil:

With an eye to the future and a commitment to sustainability. You know, obviously you care a lot. Uh, can you share with us the new and existing aquaculture methods that you've implemented or exploring to responsibly grow healthy seafood?

Donna:

My pleasure, Phil. And thank you for having me. Um, yes, I think that , uh , by moving the farms off shore , um , we need to implement robotics and submersible net pens into the agriculture plans in order to , uh, be able to grow fish, to feed the world in a sustainable manner out in the ocean. So , uh , really robotics , uh, net new net pen culture, new , uh, technology that's been developed to improve our fish husbandry methods. Uh, we can also , uh , be able to , uh , euthanize the fish in the most humane manner , uh, based on the new technology that's being developed at this time.

Phil:

So agriculture has been around for a while and we've heard , um, we've all heard about the stories , um, in other countries with these , uh, pens that are taking place, but you've got a slightly different twist to it. And frankly, I'm a bit surprised to hear about robotics , uh, being used. Describe that a little bit more for me. What are these robots are going to do under the water?

Donna:

Um, multiple things. Uh, one thing is the cage itself is , uh, remotely activated and thinks down below the surface in order to maintain safety during storm events , uh, or just to hit the optimum , uh , temperature for the fish growth. Um, we can move that net pen throughout the water column and place it in an optimal situation. There are robotics being developed to , uh , feed the fish again, remotely through a feed system that sits off shore at the site. Um, some of them hold 20 tons of feed and some will hold 250 tons of feed, and that would be remotely activated to pump the feed into the net pens of below the surface. Um, there's a company in Norway. That's actually developing a robotic cleaning device that stays around the outside of the net pen and cleans it. And this particular bot will also make a repair to the net pen if there's a tear.

Phil:

So we've, we've seen over the past couple of years , um, a lot of indoor , uh , fish pens. Um, what's the advantage of doing it in the sea?

Donna:

Um , well I think there's an opportunity for the land-based facilities and the offshore facilities to work together where you use the land base to , uh , grow the fingerlings that then are moved off shore. One of the advantages of the offshore environment is the fact that there's millions of gallons of water flowing through the net pen at any moment. So you have a totally natural environment for the fish. I think that's the off shore advantage, but there's an opportunity for both to work together.

Phil:

So I'm going to ask you, you know , the tough question , um, what kind of commitment are you making to , um, create this sustainable food production , um, and to create more jobs?

Donna:

Well, you know, our commitment is to 100% transparency and we believe at Manna Fish Farms that that commitment to transparency is necessary in order to achieve the social license that we need in order to go out to the commons. Our goal is to be able to serve as a model to a template so that others can follow and to set the standard very high , uh , the environmental impact very low, and to be able to show people that , um, many of the misperceptions or negatives surrounding farm fish are in the past, and there's a new way to do things.

Phil:

So you you've mentioned transparency a number of times, and also the fact that you want to really upend , uh , this whole industry and show it a new way of how to advance sustainable agriculture in the U S um, now, is this just going to be a U S initiative or do you want to expand across the globe?

Donna:

Well, we're starting in the U S and , uh , of course Canada is a big part of our plans. Our COO is coming from Ontario. He's a dual citizen, Mike Meeker, he's a Canadian and us citizen. He's been farming up in Ontario on lake you're on for 37 years. He's the first organic certified farmer in north America because the Canadians have organic standards. So , uh , while we're a us, a New York company, whether us focused , this has global implications, you know, being able to , uh , feed the world in the face of climate change is really the challenge of our lifetime. And what we have in the U S is a situation where we're importing 91% of our seafood. Um , and we know that more than half 52% was the last number of the seafood in the world is farmed. Um, it's just a great opportunity that needs to be tapped into, to be able to farm in our U S exclusive economic zone. The United nations has said the U S has the greatest untapped potential in our EEZ in the world. And the time has come to sustainably produced , uh , finfish , uh , seaweed shellfish in the ocean.

Phil:

So this is a big job for you to do. Uh , so there's you , uh, you're, you're have your new COO starting. Um, what other collaboration does your team see as being critical for the future of Manna and the aquaculture industry as a whole?

Donna:

Uh , the way we view it, Phi,l is that, you know , uh, ocean farming is really not something that can be accomplished by one person alone or even one team alone. It takes a collaboration of scientists, you know , Marine biologist , ocean engineers. Uh, we work with all of, you know, many, many universities and research institutes doing pre deployment research. Now , uh , we've been working very closely with the national center for coastal ocean science, part of NOAA to develop a Marine spatial planning for our two pending sites. And that's a very in-depth analysis of where to site the farm , uh, in that very busy ocean environment. Uh, we also collaborate and I sit on the board of the world, ocean council , uh , world ocean council is an organization of , uh , ocean businesses. Uh , and I believe it's one of the few , uh , such organization focused on corporate social responsibility in ocean business. So I think it's a , a team that needs that is needed here and a collaboration of all of these universities , scientists, workers, and educators to get it done, and the government .

Phil:

So I'm only how many sleepless nights you've had over this. You know, what what's keeping you up at night? What are some of the biggest concerns that you've got about agriculture production and what are you doing, you know, to fix that?

Donna:

Well, one of the concerns surrounding , uh , seafood is really , um, traceability and, and, you know, flowing from our transparency is the question of how do we move our products through the supply chain and make sure when they get to the consumer, that that's the same product that we grew out in the ocean. And there's great challenges with that area in that , uh , the statistics have shown that 46% of seafood is mislabeled. So seafood mislabeling , uh, is definitely a , a big challenge for us. Uh, we feel that we can bridge that gap with a new venture we have with IBM, which is the Manna seafood blockchain, which seeks to bring that seafood onto the blockchain and be able to trace it from the fishermen or farmer all the way to the plate.

Phil:

No blockchain is , is just so important and IBM and Walmart and, and the whole, you know, food sector has really embraced blockchain. And , um , I'm so happy to hear that that's something that you're going to be incorporating as well, because as you point out, you know, and it's every time that TV has sweeps , um, you know, twice a year, you always see that reporter, you know, going into the supermarket, going to the seafood case and then taking up , you know, fish and saying, it says blank, but it's really blank. So we do need to fix that because, you know, from a credibility standpoint to consumers , um, con you know, fish consumption is nowhere near what it should be from a health standpoint, from a preparation standpoint. And the more that you can do and your organization can do to , to give that confidence to the consumer, I think we all win. Um, what do you wish that every farmer and rancher, no matter what crop they grow, no matter what animal they're raising, what do you want them to know about aquaculture?

Donna:

Uh , that we care. We care about the ocean. We care about the environment. Uh, we're here to work towards reaching the United nations, sustainable development goals. Uh , it's a bigger mission than just running a business and producing fish. Um, it's much, much bigger than that.

Phil:

What are some of the biggest misconceptions that consumers that, you know, everyone has about seafood , uh, about, you know, farm based seafood that we need to frankly , um, clean up and empower them and educate them?

Donna:

Well, I think that they're pumped with chemicals is one of the big misperceptions of based on probably bad actors in the past. And I don't deny that there are some bad actors, right? And these are actors that can be locked out with blockchain. Right. And we can eliminate that, but we, through the blockchain see , seek to elevate the good actors. And so the good actors are the ones that aren't using antibiotics. And especially in an environment like the ocean, you're prohibited from using antibiotics in the open area like that. So , um , to just say that we're polluting , polluting and , uh , humping , and Frankenfish , you know, I don't know where that term has come from, but it's not true either. Um, it

Phil:

Actually, it actually came from prince Charles in England. He's the one who coined that phrase, oh, I don't know how many decades ago, about GMOs .

Donna:

Uh, but so we're not Frankenfish breeding or striving to achieve that. In fact, we're involved in genetic studies right now with the university of New Hampshire where we're studying the growth of the true wild Stripe best in simulated conditions to our, to off shore sites, to see how they do in those , uh , environmental conditions. And , uh, the results of the study have been very, very positive. Uh , we believe that striped bass is a wonderful fish for potential culture. Uh, we also look in New York to steelhead trout as a possibility because there's been great success with that species. Um, Mike Meeker has been growing rainbow trout up in Canada , uh , for many, many years, and he hasn't used antibiotics. There's just no need for that. And I think what we do need though are organics, and to be able to have organic seafood in the U S I think this is really important. And through the Manna ocean foundation, which is a non-profit we're affiliated with , um, the mana ocean foundation is , uh, has launched a program in February of 2020, right before COVID to begin to certify us farm seafood, organic to the Canadian standards. And we launched it aquaculture America in Honolulu. And then we were put on the sideline by COVID. But our plan is to relaunch that this August, and we'll be excited to educate people surrounding organic standards. And what does it mean to be organic is to jump in on your questions, but really it has to do with the feed, you know, using a feed that has no GMOs, that is all natural, that has no , um , chemicals in the input there. Uh , and also it goes to stocking densities, you know, how tightly you pack your pro your biomass. So , um, with those limitations, we really are excited to bring in organic product farmed at raised in the U S to tables in the U S.

Phil:

Well, Donna, I applaud your efforts. Um , what you're doing with manna fish farms is significant for us all , um , best of luck with it. I can't wait to be able to go into my local supermarket and buy the manna brand of us raised organic seafood. So thank you for joining us today and thank you for what you're doing.

Donna:

My pleasure. Thanks for having me. Eat sustainably raised in sorts seafood.

Speaker 3:

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