Frequently Asked Questions











What is GreenWave?

GreenWave is a non-profit ocean farmer and fisherman-run organization dedicated to building a new blue-green economy that creates jobs, mitigates climate change, and grows healthy food for local communities. We run a farmer-in-training program for aspiring ocean farmers and operate a kelp hatchery to provide free seed to our farmers as they learn the ropes of this farming type and species. We partner with educational institutions and other organizations to expand the body of knowledge around kelp and regenerative 3D ocean farming, and we work to support 3D ocean farming in new regions. We incubate small farmers and small businesses pioneering in this new ocean-farming space.


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What is 3D ocean farming?

3D ocean farming is a vertical polyculture farming system that utilizes the entire water column to grow a mixture of seaweed and shellfish that require zero inputs (no fertilizer or freshwater) and provide important ecosystem services--such as water filtration, and nitrogen and carbon sequestration.


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What does an ocean farm look like?

Ultimately, the layout of an ocean farm depends upon the site conditions, the species you are growing, and your gear and local permitting requirements. That said, the concept is simple: it entails a series of submerged horizontal lines, anchored at either end, suspended by small floatation buoys, seeded alternately with kelp and mussels, and interspersed with oysters and other shellfish in floating, suspended, or submerged cages. On the surface, the farms don’t look like much--only the buoys are visible. Below the surface, the kelp grows quickly and the structure of the farm provides habitat and shelter for fish and other aquatic life.


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How is 3D ocean farming different from IMTA?

In the 1980s, a group of scientists and engineers met to define what multispecies ocean farming should be called. They came up with over 50 terms and settled on “Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture” or IMTA, for short. “3D Ocean Farming” is GreenWave's simplified name for multispecies polyculture that incorporates seaweed and shellfish.


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Are ocean farms hurricane proof?

3D ocean farms are restorative and ecologically resilient, but not impenetrable to the forces of nature. Nor’easters, hurricanes, ice, and other extreme weather can damage your gear and your crops. Over time, as you learn your site and improve your farming techniques, you may figure out how to modify your gear to make it less susceptible to storm surges and other conditions. As a farmer-in-training, we will help you think through the tools and techniques you need to increase the resilience of your operation.


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What is the GreenWave Ocean Farmer-in-Training Program?

The ocean farmer-in-training program is a unique opportunity for new and diversifying farmers to learn the nuts and bolts of 3D ocean farming, and to connect with other folks working toward the same goal. It is a free, but competitive two-year program for diversifying fishers and shellfishers incorporating kelp into their operations and aspiring ocean farmers developing their own ocean farm.

As a farmer-in-training, you receive technical guidance and one-on-one support as you navigate site selection, permitting, gear types, and planning for seaweed and shellfish farming, as well as hands-on trainings focused on seaweed seeding and harvesting techniques, and other aspects of establishing and deploying your ocean farm.

The goal is for trainees to graduate with a fully operational 3D ocean farm and the knowledge and skills necessary to profitably manage it. Qualified participants who launch their farms during the second year of the program receive free kelp seed, grown on spools at the GreenWave kelp nursery.


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What is the program timeline?

The program lasts two years. During the first year of the program, there are three all-cohort meetings (a kickoff, in August; a seeding workshop in November; and a harvest workshop in May). Throughout the first year, GreenWave provides you with individualized support as you work independently to select, design, and permit your ocean farm site. During the second year of the program, GreenWave provides you with free kelp seed and hands-on support as you deploy your farm gear and seed for the first time. We also provide support for future crop diversification once you establish your farm.

As weather and schedules allow, GreenWave staff visit you and your farm on a monthly basis to monitor progress, troubleshoot, and help you improve your operation. When your crop is ready to harvest, we return to help you get started.


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What if I am not ready to start a farm during the second year of the program?

Starting a new farm and business takes time. Much of the programming in year two focuses on helping you to launch your gear and seed, monitor, and harvest your kelp. If you are not ready to farm in year two, we will do our best to work with you and provide these benefits during your first year of farming. Receipt of free kelp seed will depend upon availability.


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How does GreenWave select new farmers for the training program?

We identify candidates through a competitive application process. Applications for the farmer-in-training program are available online from April 4 thru May 15. If you prefer to submit a paper application, please contact us for instructions by emailing farmerintraining@greenwave.org. GreenWave staff review applications and contact qualified candidates for interviews in May and June. We may also conduct follow-up interviews if we have an exceptional number of qualified candidates. Candidates will be notified with our final selection and invited to join the program in late June.


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What criteria do you consider when selecting candidates?

We are looking to work with New Englanders who are highly motivated to start their 3D ocean farms, or expand their current operations to incorporate kelp, within the next one to two years.

Our goal is to help farmers and fishers diversify their crops and to launch new 3D ocean farms. While we work with people from a variety of backgrounds with varying levels of experience working on the water, we want to know that you’ve done your homework and that you are fully prepared to take on the responsibilities of 3D ocean farming. Have you developed a business plan? Do you know what type of investment you’ll need to make and where you’ll acquire the necessary resources? Have you researched possible sites and permits in your area? Exposure to aquaculture, fishing, and farming techniques and demonstrated experience working on the water, especially during the winter, are a plus. If you’ve never worked on the water, but have other experience that has prepared you for ocean farming, we want to hear about it. We want to hear your story.

Eventually, we hope to offer more programming to a wider audience, and we’re working on a manual for 3D ocean farming to help us achieve that.


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Do you currently support farmers outside of southern New England?

Yes, we’re currently supporting active farmers and building programs in California, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest. We have plans to start farmer-in-training programs in these states. If you’d like to be notified when our program expands to these states, click here or contact farmerintraining@greenwave.org.


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How many people are accepted into the program?

We admit a cohort of up to ten new farmers each year into the southern New England Farmer-in-Training Program.


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What is the application timeline?

The application period for the farmer-in-training program closes on May 15. GreenWave staff review applications and interview candidates in May. We make final cohort selections in June.


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How much does it cost?

The two-year program is free of charge.


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What’s the catch?

There’s no catch. Our mission is to support a new generation of ocean farmers and innovators working to restore ecosystems, mitigate climate change, and build a blue-green economy. We equip farmers and fishers with new tools to diversify crops and economic opportunities, and are training a new generation of restorative ocean farmers. The program is free, and participation in activities is voluntary. We do ask farmers-in-training to sign a memorandum of understanding, which outlines our mutual goals and responsibilities over the course of the program. For example, GreenWave commits to providing technical assistance, hands-on trainings, and free kelp seed to farmers-in-training during your first year of farming. We ask that, as a member of the GreenWave community, you commit to abiding by local, state, and federal regulations, uphold the highest standards of sustainability, and that you give back by sharing lessons learned, helping us improve the 3D ocean farming model, or fielding questions from new farmers. Of course, we would be happy to accept other in-kind or financial support that you are able to offer. Email team@greenwave.org or visit our donation page for more information.


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How is that possible?

GreenWave is generously supported by private foundations, state, federal, and local grants, and donors.


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What is the time commitment for the training program?

There are three in-person meetings during the first year of the program (a kickoff, in August; a seeding workshop in November; and a harvest workshop in May). After the kick-off meeting, we schedule monthly check-ins with you to gauge your progress and to connect you with timely and pertinent resources. Ultimately, participation in workshops and other activities is voluntary. Much of the program is self-directed, but we are here to provide you with one-on-one support as you navigate site selection, permitting, and farm design and deployment. Afterall, you’re working to start a farm--we are just here to help you along the way.

During the second year of the program, GreenWave staff offers technical support and hands-on training as you deploy gear for the first time, seed your lines, monitor progress, and harvest your crop.


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What is the time commitment for ocean farming?

If you are growing multiple species of seaweed and shellfish, ocean farming is a full-time job. Growing multiple species diversifies your economic opportunities, and decreases your reliance on the yield of a single crop. The more species you grow, the more time you will need to spend on the water tending to your crops.

Depending on the size of your farm, growing only kelp can be a part or full-time, seasonal job. Sugar kelp is a winter crop, seeded between October-December and harvested from April-June. Setting gear for the first time on a new farm may take one week or more, depending on farm size and gear type. You should anticipate visiting your farm and tending to your crop at least once per week for several hours throughout the farming season. Harvest may happen all in one day or over a series of days over a two to three week period.

Weather has a strong influence over winter working conditions. Anticipate that you might not be able to go out to your farm as scheduled when winter weather rolls through, and that you may need to spend extra time on your farm once a storm subsides--adjusting and mending your gear.


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How long does it take to start an ocean farm?

It depends...on your experience level, lease and permit type, business plan, and state of residence. If you are a shellfish farmer, well-acquainted with aquaculture permitting processes and gear types, it may only take a few months to modify your permit and incorporate kelp into your operation. If you are starting from scratch, are unfamiliar with ocean farming, and just want to grow seaweed, it could take 4-18 months to secure a site and permit. Permitting seaweed and shellfish simultaneously may take the same amount of time as permitting a single species. Permit revisions years down the road may not take as much time as your initial permit, but it is still a process. If growing multiple species is in your business plan, apply for permits that reflect that plan. On average, it takes 8-10 months to secure necessary permits in southern New England.


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Why such a range?

Leasing and permitting processes may be site and species dependent, vary by state (and sometimes by town), and involve multiple agencies, such as your local shellfish commission and harbormaster; your state Bureau of Aquaculture, Division of Fisheries, Department of Marine Resources, or similar agency; and the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal regulators.


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How much does it cost to start an ocean farm?

Total startup and annual costs for your farm will depend upon its size, type, and location, and can range anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 plus a boat. These costs vary state-to-state, and depend on existing local resources for farmers and the depth and exposure of your lease.


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What species of kelp are you supplying to farmers?

Saccharina latissima, also known as sugar kelp--a prolific and versatile coldwater seagreen (or, rather, brown macroalgae) that grows in northern waters across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.


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What do people do with the crops that they grow?

We use our robust network to guarantee you have a market for your crops and connect you with a variety of buyers who guarantee purchasing. As a farmer-in-training, you are also encouraged to cultivate and diversify your own distribution network of buyers, ranging from restaurants and wholesalers to value-added producers and institutions. Greenwave believes strongly in helping farmers develop connections with a range of buyers for their crops to provide flexibility and leverage for farmers as the industry continues to grow.


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Who is eligible for the program?

Our farmer-in-training program is currently limited to residents of southern New England, but we are working to expand our offerings. If you live in California, Oregon, Washington, or Alaska and are interested in 3D ocean farming, please let us know by emailing farmerintraining@greenwave.org.


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OK, where do I begin?

Apply to be a part of our farmer-in-training program!

Applications are available on our website.

The application period ends at 11:59pm EST on May 15, 2018.


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