Welcome to Project Green Wave! With the help of an ever-growing network of scientists, educators and policy folks we have transformed our farm into an incubator for sustainable food production, scientific research and economic development. Our mission is to model our farm around the principles of restoration rather than depletion of the environment – while growing good food and creating good jobs. Here are some of the key elements of our Green Wave program:
Vertical Farming: We’re proud to be one of first 3-D farms in the US, using the entire water column to grow a variety of species — ranging from sugar kelp and oysters to mussels and scallops. Along with a consortium of scientists, chefs and engineers, we have developed a system for growing seaweed and shellfish to help curtail ocean acidification, generate sustainable source of biofuel, and ensure healthy — and delicious! — local food for local communities. Read more here or check out our oped “Farming the Urban Sea” recently published in National Geographic’s Ocean Voices series.
Solar Refrigeration: After reading through a couple issues of MAKE magazine — the bible of the DIY community — we decided that we could design our own mobile solar refrigeration system on the cheap (we’ve also recently converted our boat crane to solar power). The fridge/freezers most of us use in our homes suck up a ton of electricity. But recently reefer technology has begun to change — largely because the military has decided it’s in their best interest to go green. Continue reading…
Green Job Training: We’re especially excited about our new collaborative project with the BRASTEC Sound School in Bridgeport CT employing city high school kids to process and package our seaweed for market. Cooking and processing seaweed – talk about a green job!
Community Supported Fisheries Program: Thimble Island Oyster Co. is proud to have created the first CSF in Long Island Sound. Modeled on land-based CSAs, we’ve created a way for local residents to eat local, help restore the shoreline’s ocean ecosystem, and support local shellfish and seaweed farmers. Our program is dedicated to producing fresh, organic, and sustainable seafood for our local community. Member sign up and background info is available here.
Education: We use our farm to do more than grow food – we use it to educate. We maintain relationships with an array of educational institutions in order to expose youth to food systems. For example, we run an ocean farm program with the Yale Sustainable Food Project, which enables students to learn about vertical ocean farming and the effect of climate change on ocean ecosystems. Here’s a blog post by the students on last summer’s trip out to the farm. We also regularly host chefs, legislators and NGO’s on our farm to build support for environmental restoration and green job creation.
Scientific Research: We view our farm as a hub for scientific research and innovation. We are currently working with the University of Connecticut and Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory on a range of projects including studying the role seaweed and vertical farming can have on local ocean ecosystems and development of a scalable farm systems for nutrient bioextraction.
Bio-fuel: Amazingly the seaweed we grow is also emerging as a viable source for alternative energy. As the fastest growing plant in the world, kelp is capable of producing over 2000 gallons of biofuel per acre annually — five times higher than the ethanol produced by corn and up to 30 times more per acre than soybeans. The United States Department of Energy estimates that replacing all the oil in the United States with seaweed biofuel would require about half of the land area of Maine. At Thimble Island Oyster Co we are already working with Long Island Sound companies to source kelp for experimental biofuel operations. The promise of growing alternative energy in local waters may well be its way to becoming a reality.
Nitrogen Trading Program: We have teamed up with environmentalist to advocate for an expansion of the state’s existing nitrogen credit trading program to include shellfish farms, thereby reimbursing oystermen for the nitrogen they filter from Long Island Sound each year. With new oyster operations sprouting up all around the country, rewarding “green fishermen” for the positive effect their farms have on the environment could be a model for how to stimulate job growth while saving the planet.
Solar Powered Oyster Boat: This one is our most ambitious — and expensive — DIY projects. We’re in the planning phases of figuring out how to turn our oyster boat into a solar oyster boat. We’re working with a local “energy extraction” engineer and learning from some folks associated with Make Magazine and Instructables to explore what’s the best and most affordable way to go green. As a fellow land-based farmer from Wisconsin recently emailed: “You mention electric power… it seems like a boat, with virtually unlimited weight carrying capacity and which sits out in the open sun all the time but used only occasionally would be a perfect platform for solar electric propulsion.” We can’t wait to see fleets of solar powered boats on Long Island Sound!
Thimble Island Scrimshaw: We also draw and hand silkcreen shirts, bags, and sweatshirts — all available here — as well make Cedar Grilling Planks made from 100% natural, untreated local white cedar. Learn how to cook with our planks here.
Thimble Island Oyster Office: For the first couple years while we set up our farm we were dirt poor. Instead of paying rent, we bought an old 1961 Airstream for $700 and fixed her up as a living space. For 5 years we had no running water, no indoor plumbing and intermittent heat. Hard living! Now that we’re moved into nicer digs, we use the Airstream as our oyster “headquarters” and workshop. We have half of our lights and electronics running off of solar panels — and we’re saving up some money to pull her off the grid completely.