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Carbon lock-up in the kelp forest

Carbon lock-up in the kelp forest

In a remarkable endeavor to combat climate change and foster sustainable development, a Dutch startup is pioneering a kelp farming project off the coast of Lüderitz in southern Namibia. The project, led by Kelp Blue, aims to harness the potential of giant kelp forests to sequester carbon dioxide, while also creating a range of biotech products. By integrating nature-based solutions into their operations, Kelp Blue aligns with the vision of a global society striving for sustainable development and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Giant kelp, the largest variety of brown seaweed, offers numerous environmental benefits. Research has shown that these kelp forests can enhance marine biodiversity, protect wildlife, and act as significant carbon sinks, effectively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away in the ocean. The Benguela ocean current, which flows off the shores of Lüderitz, provides ideal conditions for the growth of giant kelp, making the location ideal for Kelp Blue's pioneering project.

Under the leadership of CEO Daniel Hooft, a former offshore engineering specialist at oil major Shell, Kelp Blue has established two kelp forests off the rugged coast of Lüderitz. The company's team of marine biologists and divers has also set up an experimental kelp forest in Shearwater Bay. By sustainably harvesting the top of the kelp's canopy, Kelp Blue aims to eventually produce 150 tonnes of giant kelp per hectare each year, ensuring a steady supply for its processing department.

The innovative project not only addresses climate change but also generates economic opportunities and promotes social transformation. In a country where youth unemployment rates are as high as 50%, Kelp Blue's venture has transformed Lüderitz into a hub for green jobs. Local marine experts and biologists have found employment, contributing to the development of a skilled workforce and a diversified economy. For example, Iriya Jona, a fisheries studies graduate, leads a team of employees at Kelp Blue. The project's positive impact extends beyond employment, as it fosters biodiversity, protects marine life, and promotes inclusive and diverse company cultures.

Kelp Blue's operations also hold promise for supporting Namibia's agricultural sector in the face of climate change. By utilizing the kelp harvested from the forests, the company produces biostimulants designed to enhance crop resilience and improve yields. These biostimulants have proven effective in increasing crop resilience against droughts, a pressing concern as climate change intensifies the frequency and severity of droughts. Kelp Blue's seaweed extract biostimulant has shown particular promise for crops such as potatoes, row crops, grapes, nuts, and other high-value produce.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognizes the significant potential of kelp forests in mitigating climate change. In a recent research paper, UNEP highlights kelp as an important nature-based solution and a means to store carbon, dubbing it "blue carbon." The carbon stored and sequestered by marine ecosystems can be leveraged to generate blue carbon credits. While the work on developing the carbon methodology continues, Kelp Blue's commitment to biodiversity conservation and social transformation underpins their broader ambitions.

The vision of a global society pursuing sustainability and the SDGs is reflected in Kelp Blue's approach. By integrating sustainable practices, promoting economic growth, and protecting marine ecosystems, the project contributes to several SDGs, including Goal 13 (Climate Action), Goal 14 (Life Below Water), Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities).

Looking ahead, Kelp Blue aims to expand its operations to other locations such as New Zealand and Alaska. Furthermore, the company plans to establish a natural swimming pool in Lüderitz to foster a connection between children and the ocean, promoting environmental awareness and conservation from an early age. Additionally, Kelp Blue is collaborating with the University of Namibia to gather valuable data on the kelp forests, further enhancing scientific knowledge and research in the field.

Kelp Blue's pioneering kelp farming project in Namibia exemplifies the power of nature-based solutions and sustainable entrepreneurship in addressing climate change and fostering inclusive and green economies. By sequestering carbon dioxide, producing biotech products, creating green jobs, and promoting biodiversity, Kelp Blue's initiative aligns with the vision of a global society committed to sustainability and the SDGs. Through such innovative and socially transformative projects, we move closer to achieving a brighter and more sustainable future for all.

Vimeo credits: @kelpblue


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