Seas of change
Adam's seaweed forests are capturing carbon to combat climate change.
Plant a tree and you’re helping the planet. Grow seaweed and planet rescue goes into overdrive. When Marine Engineer Adam Brancher heard that seaweed forests could be capable of sequestering up to 20 times more carbon per acre than forests, he was in. He launched Southern Ocean Carbon Company to combat climate change through growing seaweed in southern Tasmania.
Adam Brancher moved to Tasmania in 2015 with serious maritime expertise. He earned his sea legs on his family’s wooden yacht off the American coast before spending time in the military and working a host of seafaring jobs across the Indian Ocean. After receiving First Class University Honours majoring in Yacht Manufacturing and Surveying, he continued on to a Post Graduate Certificate in Marine Engineering. He arrived in Tasmania working for the Federal Government‘s Australian Maritime Safety Authority but shortly after founded his marine surveying company, Kedge Pty Ltd.
“I started Kedge solo in my back room. Hobart friends felt sorry for me and next I was invited to their office space. They even put a mannequin in the office with a mobile phone attached to her head so I had company,” laughs Adam whose company now employs 23 staff across Australia.
With engineers in four states and Kedge’s naval architects, marine surveyors and engineers travelling globally, Adam was adamant that the company be carbon neutral in its operation. In the process, he began to feel a disconnect between carbon offsetting costs and tangible outcomes. So, he set about exploring how to mitigate atmospheric carbon emissions in a measurable way through growing seaweed.
“I read the science and realised there’s a space that needs filling. Seaweed is phenomenal – kelp can grow up to 70 centimetres a day. I engaged marine sciene consultants to find out how much carbon we could lock in, where we could do it, and how to progress in a methodical way. We combined this with the Kedge team’s strong engineering solutions to take this project to the next level,” he added.
The Southern Ocean Carbon Company has a site, Bailinga, near Woodbridge on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel where they deployed 900 metres of biodegradable hemp rope. In just a few months, the start-up has seen impressive seaweed growth and marine life exploring the burgeoning forest.
“We are really pleased with the progress and expect to have a viable product in early 2021 so that we can capture carbon on a scale that is available to everyone. Often it feels like there is nothing we can do about climate change, but we believe together we can make a genuine difference and leave a better place behind. Our door is open. We don’t mind if anyone replicates what we are doing or wants to collaborate with other ideas – that’s the very model that will give our planet the best chance. It’s about hope, and action,” explains Adam.
The team have proven that they can calculate anyone’s carbon footprint by way of a verified formulae, whether that be a business or individual. Through this, the plan is that each person can become carbon neutral by calculating their footprint and offsetting that amount through the Southern Ocean Carbon Company. It might be the cost of a coffee per week. Experts have also confirmed that carbon in the seaweed can be measured accurately and that it can be ‘locked in’ for long-term benefit. The process of ‘locking in’ might include reef regeneration or biochar and more information is available on these processes here.
Adam also has his eye on Tasmania’s Giant kelp forests, an estimated 95 per cent now lost. One of the company’s major strategies is to offer algae or plants to go back into the water where these forests once stood. By providing mature plants, rather than seeding, it’s believed there is a significantly greater chance of the baby kelp taking hold and regenerating in locations such as the Tasman Peninsula.
The company also has potential to create even more ‘green jobs’ that allow an individual to go to work each day knowing they are having a positive impact on the planet. Adam adds, “There are so many people worried about losing their traditional jobs. We’ll have more and more roles emerge, from deploying to hatching to harvesting to reef regeneration. Then there’s potential medicinal uses of seaweed and seaweed as a food source. We’ve already had chefs visiting asking to sample our tastes and textures. We have plans for an education kiosk, underwater cameras and the opportunity to snorkel in our seaweed. The potential here is vast.”
While Adam has invested near $100,000 of his own funds to get the company established including hatchery, vessels, wages, regulatory and legal costs, come December the team will launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for further infrastructure and to take the concept to a new level.
“We look forward to working with others who are passionate about this space. The interconnectedness of Tasmania has been instrumental in our progress; it feels more like a village. We’d love to talk to anyone who has interest or collaborative ideas.”
Are you interested in making a move? Make it Tasmania.
Find out more about the Southern Ocean Carbon Company.
For information on starting a business in Tasmania look through our stories or visit Business Tasmania.