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Episode #7

November 2020

   Hi, everybody. Thanks for being here and welcome to Ocean Solutions, a noise lab  podcast. I am Dr. Morgan Reed Raven, biogeochemist and a professor at the university of California, Santa Barbara. In this podcast, we're talking with inspirational individuals who are working on some of the largest issues of our time.

At the intersection of climate, ocean conservation and human wellbeing. Today is a fun one. We get to think just a little bit less about dealing with climate hazards, and just a little bit more about the infinite possibilities that exist when we combine human ingenuity and some extraordinary organisms with the underwhelming name of seaweeds.

Seaweeds,  which are not plants can replace petroleum and plastics and liquid fuels, can replace monoculture feed crops for cattle and other animals and can scrub agricultural nutrient pollution from coasts.

This stuff is super cool. Let's go.

 

 Morgan: [00:01:28] Thank you so much for being here today, Rae.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:01:30] Happy to be here.

Morgan: [00:01:32] I have been starting all of these interviews. So far by asking my guests to tell us about just one big issue that motivates their work. But when we were talking before this, it became really clear that your approach is a little bit flipped. And instead there is  this resource that you can provide access to, which for our purposes today is primarily.

and  this improved technology has been tied to a whole host of different issues and can contribute to many of them at once. Or at least it has this sort of tantalizing promise that it might be able to. And so could we start by  having you give us just a big picture sense of why are you interested in seaweed?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:02:10] Yeah, absolutely. seaweed is  this incredible organism  it has the capacity to be utilized as a resource for food for fuels. bio polymers, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, all kinds of products that we could use that we are currently making from, oil or petroleum based products. It really has the capacity to replace anything that we currently make with oil or with various fossil fuels. And  it really has tremendous potential.  growing these large scale seaweed farms, starting in areas where we, for example, have a large amount of nutrient pollution   like the Gulf of Mexico, . Which is considered a dead zone these days. . And the reason it's a dead zone is because of all of the nutrient pollution.  if we look to a natural biological solution for this nutrient pollution, I think that seaweed farms have One of the best chances of. Actually solving the problem and restoring the ecosystem to what it once was. So with various types of seaweeds, they absorb nitrogen. They absorb carbon from,  the air into the water, right. And into their cells and, store this carbon and nitrogen and turn it into biomass.

And we can then use that biomass for any number of various products. Like I mentioned, fuels. things that can replace plastics,  also freezes food, obviously, use as fish food as well. And it's not using any additional land or fresh water.

Morgan: [00:04:00] Wow. There are so many issues here. I love it there. It's an amazing,   what organisms are we talking about here? what do we mean by seaweed? I'm sort of picturing something that goes around my sushi and also what washes up on the beach. Are we talking about both of those things?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:04:17] All of those things. So what goes around your sushi  is called Nori. It's a type of green macroalgae.  It's primarily grown in Asia. so that's one type of seaweed. when we refer to  bio-remediation, we're often looking at the Brown seaweeds known as kelps.

So here in California, for example, off of our coast here in Santa Barbara, we have a huge amount of giant kelp macrosystem poriphera, right? It's that seaweed that  has these huge canopies and covers large swaths of the ocean.  So microbiology and seaweed is, is synonymous. It is a photosynthetic organism , it's actually technically a protist. It's not a plant.   a lot of these distinctions from plants are actually what allow them to be such a valuable organism in terms of all of the different projects that they can  be made into  so one of the, valuable byproducts that I don't think I've actually mentioned is a bio fertilizer or biostimulants that can be made from a number of different types of seaweeds and each different seaweed actually has different bio stimulant properties.

And we. assume that this has to do with the microbial composition of the seaweeds, as well as the, microbes of the soil that they are, feeding  it's a phyto hormone   it allows plants to be more resilient, to bugs, more resilient to drought, to use  less of the traditional nitrogenous fertilizers.

So it's sort of this full circle solution where if we utilize seaweed as a fertilizer, we need to add less nitrogen. More of the nitrogen is actually absorbed by the plants that we're trying to farm agriculturally. So we have a lot less nitrogen runoff and less of that nutrient. Pollution to the ocean that we had in the first place. Right.

Morgan: [00:06:18] Yeah. So you're saying you could almost like recycle the nitrogen that has been used and over fertilized and  flowed into the ocean through the rivers that then you can  scrub with kelp or other types of macro algae that that could be harvested ground up and returned to agriculture as a  recycled source of that same nitrogen.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:06:40] Exactly.

Morgan: [00:06:41] is so cool.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:06:42] Yes. Yes. I think so. And you know, beyond that, . Once we validate they did the concept of these macro algae farms and built the markets surrounding them here in the U S it's already a global market of, close to $20 billion and growing at a rate of 13 or 14% every year.

So it's quite a growing industry. Once we start to scale this up, we can actually potentially use it as a carbon dioxide removal strategy. .

Morgan: [00:07:12] who are interested in using kelp as a carbon sequestration tool? Tell us a little bit more about that. what does that process and what are they thinking?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:07:22] So, you know, giant kelp macrocysts is periphery is actually the fastest growing photosynthetic organism on earth. So if we're looking for a biological source of a carbon sequestration, giant kelp is number one on the list, . It can grow up to a meter a day in the best conditions, which is pretty crazy, honestly.  in order to actually sequester the carbon, we have to harvest the seaweed and turn it into something that is going to be, either.

Sequestering the carbon or using it as something like a biofuel where we could have a zero net carbon biofuel. in areas where we are likely to require liquid fuels for quite a long time in the future, .

Things like, the shipping industry airplanes, right. So if we can. Replace the current liquid fuels, which are fossil fuels with seaweed fuels,

that's at least getting us to zero net carbon rather than burning these older hydrocarbons and  and adding to climate change. .

Morgan: [00:08:30] Absolutely. And I think this is a really important point for people to talk through a little bit, . Why this is such an important difference, ? Cause when we're making the kelp, we're growing. From the dissolved CO2 in the ocean, which is coming basically right away from the atmosphere because the atmosphere and the surface ocean are exchanging all the time.

And so they're basically pulling it from the atmosphere, building their bodies. Now it's organic matter and we can maybe do something with it, turn it into a plastic or. Burn it in an airplane. And if it

gets burned, it goes all the way back to where it started. And it kind of make any difference there.

We just went in a loop, but if we take that same carbon from something that was buried a hundred million years ago over the course of millions of years and shove it into the atmosphere all at once, all of a sudden that's not a close loop, that's totally changing the amount of CO2 in the

Rae Fuhrman: [00:09:22] Exactly. Sort of a brief explanation of, of climate change. Right. You know, when shoved all of this carbon into the atmosphere that was buried. 

Morgan: [00:09:34] could make a really big difference then even if we're still making fuel and putting it in an airplane where that fuel came from makes all the difference.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:09:42] exactly. And you know, beyond that, , there are ways to also sequester the carbon more permanently, do you use it in materials like carbon fiber or various plastic materials?

Morgan: [00:09:54] how do you make a plastic out of a seaweed?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:09:57] honestly, the way that I like to explain this is it's really just. A hydrocarbon in a live form versus a buried form, right? Plastics are currently made from very old hydrocarbons. This is just a fresh hydrocarbon. It's not really very different, honestly. So when it comes to the processes to create , these biopolymers, it's not necessarily  different from what we're currently actually using.

 just, there's a higher water content and a higher assault,

Morgan: [00:10:34] Sure. Yeah, that makes sense.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:10:35] but it's not so different actually. we're really just extracting the carbohydrates, the proteins, the lipids, and making them into various products the same way as is done from various fossil fuels.

Morgan: [00:10:51] Great. So we can use a lot of the same technology and expertise of. Figuring out how plastics work over the last century and apply it to these other sources.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:10:59] Yes, absolutely.

 

Morgan: [00:11:00] So are they better than other types of say plants just because they have more of these hydrocarbons in them, or at least on a simplified level?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:11:08] Yes.  when I say better, it really also comes down to what are you actually putting in and what are you getting out? . So a lot of the plants that are used for these materials, we have to put in a lot of fresh water.

We have to have this land that they are utilizing, When it comes to seaweed, there is no land being utilized and there's no fresh water being utilized. So, it's using a lot less resources to create something.  the fascinating thing about seaweed is that it has. All of these different solutions  come out of this one product and growing it at scale and growing at a scale responsibly and sustainably,  we really need to know exactly what's going on at these macroalgae farms.

Something that,  is one of the biggest potential issues is a Marine mammal entanglement, ? If you have these large scale farms out there, there's the possibility that whales traveling through could get caught in them.

And, you know, we need to have real time monitoring out there and technology to mitigate these potential environmental risks. .

Morgan: [00:12:20] .   It really sounds like with all these applications, like such a win-win win what a valuable resource, you know, but is it whale entanglements that are the main issue that's holding us back?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:12:32] so I would say that's definitely part of it. And a big part of it is, the fact that we really don't have a, a comprehensive permitting process. using California as an example, in order to get a permit in state waters, which is  within three miles of the coast, you have to deal with 13 different state agencies.  there isn't a lead agency,  and unfortunately there's sort of a history, a bad history of agriculture, both in California and around the world.

in many places in Asia, Agriculture was done  in a way that was very, environmentally, Debra Tori, and, also not so good for human health  there were antibiotics used. instances of  dumping nitrogen in the water to grow seaweed. here in California, back in the seventies, we had instances of, diseased seeds being brought in that ended up causing issues for local populations.

this was for the oysters. there was a lot of plastic pollution, but essentially it was just a very fledgling industry that they didn't really understand how to do it correctly, you know, and they didn't have the monitoring capacities to understand what they were doing right and wrong. they didn't have the understanding of genetics that we do today.

Right. So.  the technology today has come leaps and bounds from what it was, but the public perception has not followed the technological progression, which is very common. .

 

 

Morgan: [00:14:05] It sounds like there's some real causes from concern, mostly from historical things here. And so it is possible  to do aquaculture wrong, but.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:14:14] Absolutely.

Morgan: [00:14:15] What does it look like when it's done? Right. What does a kelp farm look like? If it were to exist off the coast of California?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:14:22] Yeah. So, I, I've been working with a few teams to design some regs that will, Utilize biomimicry to, have this kelp forest. That is an ecosystem that is the most similar to what it would look like naturally. . we would have continuous real-time monitoring of our farm, so that we would have a critical understanding of.

When we should be harvesting exactly what types of, genetics are going to be the most suitable for different areas. really gaining an understanding of exactly how we can do precision farming. So we can look to the agricultural sector who has really, made these tremendous strides in precision smart farming.

my idea is to bring this precision smart farming to agriculture. This it's not reinventing the wheel. . we're taking technology that was developed for aerospace and for the agricultural industry and just transferring it into agriculture

Morgan: [00:15:28] so does this work largely like the corn farm that I grew up with in the Midwest? Is that essentially what we're doing here?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:15:34] Essentially, something like that. the great thing about seaweed is it really doesn't take a lot of tending. It kind of tends itself. it just, lives in the ocean and.  it photosynthesizes, it utilizes a sunlight and carbon dioxide. And yes, , you harvested we don't necessarily take the entire organism. We might just take the top and let it keep growing. there, there are a number of different harvesting strategies that depend upon what type of seaweed you're growing. there are different seeds that are going to be floating and tumbling versus there are some like giant kelp that are going to be anchored.

So it really kind of depends upon exactly what seaweed you're growing. but I would say it's quite comparable to, to an agricultural, farm.

Morgan: [00:16:19] . Okay. That makes sense. on some level, these are right now kind of wild organisms, whereas most of the corns and wheats and other major staple crops  have been really heavily evolved from their wild precursors.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:16:33] Yeah, definitely.  I'm hoping that in agriculture, we can learn from the mistakes that we've made in agriculture and have some understanding of.

The fact that biodiversity always leads to a more productive system,  I'm just really hoping that, that we can kind of see this as a new frontier and not make the same mistakes that we made in agriculture via monocropping and genetically modifying organisms  to utilize pesticides and, you know, all of these types of things that cut out the microbes from the system.

And that's just a disaster. We, we have to include the microbes.

 

 

Morgan: [00:17:13] That was something that you mentioned earlier that I made a note to come back to it. Cause it sounded just so cool. You were talking about using kelp as a bio stimulant and you mentioned that. The bacteria and the other microscopic organisms living on the kelp were really important part of that product.

So we're talking about a whole living ecosystem, right? Not just this piece of algae, but everything that lives on it and inside it and interacts with those organisms all together.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:17:41] Exactly.  it's not just one organism, really. You know, when you look at kelp, you have to consider all of the epiphytes as well. And all of the, microbial organisms that are. almost indistinguishable from the kelp itself. And you can look at some really interesting processes that we can't necessarily explain, for example, that giant kelp can uptake nitrates twice as fast as ammonium, which from a chemical perspective.

Does it actually make any sense? So it must have to do with the microbes that are existing on the on the skin, on the film of the kelp, right. That are having this symbiotic relationship with the calc.

Morgan: [00:18:33] You're affecting their nitrogen uptake too, which is one of these core functions

Rae Fuhrman: [00:18:38] Critical. They can't, they can't exist without uptaking nitrogen. Right. they can't exist without those microbes.

Morgan: [00:18:45] That is so cool. where exactly do you, and does your company come in to making kelp farming better?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:18:53] So we're developing a low cost automated monitoring system for macroalgae farms. And the idea is to,  bring a lot of these smart farming technologies. A lot of the modeling that we've done around,  how does kelp grow? When is the best time to harvest it? What are the nutrient dynamics within the kelp forest?

. Utilizing all of this, incredible modeling and technology  and creating a product that is, a user-friendly system, a network sensor array, right? So it's sort of a system of buoys that a farmer can put out on his farm, her farm, their farm,  there really is no system out there.

Of sensors that our farmer can utilize. ? The sensors that we currently have for oceanographic monitoring typically are for very specific point sources and they have these very high degrees of accuracy and precision, which can often be critical for certain types of scientific monitoring, and are absolutely really important for certain applications.

But for an application like farming, we probably don't need to get to four or five decimal, places of accuracy and precision.   the idea is to utilize, more low cost sensors, ? So that we have greater spatial resolution, much greater temporal resolution, having this real-time monitoring. And, utilize modeling to really figure out,  exactly how much data we need to collect.

What kind of spaces do we need between our sensors and really figure out.  what's the minimum amount of equipment that we can actually utilize in the ocean and collect enough data to do appropriate environmental monitoring, such that it is both useful for the farmer.

And gives enough information for regulators to have their needs met are you performing all of your environmental monitoring, right? Are you making sure that it's safe for other users of the space, like fishermen, like whales, . All of the other users of, of the Marine space and, give some comfort as well,  to the public who.

Have a very reasonable concern for, what's going on in the ocean. Right? If we're putting these developments out in the ocean, People are very traumatized by what happened with oil and gas. You know, there was all these oil rigs that went out there and you know, the idea at the time was there no problem at all.

There was no idea of these huge catastrophic oil spills, right.  And so people and myself included are rightfully concerned about what are the effects  of things that we're putting out in the ocean.

what I'm really working to do is, is to create that monitoring, to create. The regime as well. What do we need to be monitoring? How can we minimize this so that it is the most cost efficient and reduces risk such that we can, build  the blue economy as well, in a sustainable way and, and give jobs to.

fishermen, for example, who are out of work because the fish that they have been, , fishing like squid, for example, here in Southern California are either, gone or have moved.

Morgan: [00:22:36] So in addition to everything, yes, we have this economic development as a major potential upside of this kind of work too.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:22:43] Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And not just seaweeds, but. Seaweeds bivalve so things like mussels, clams, oysters, abalone, scallops, all of these things, also really clean the water quality as well, and, allow for more biodiversity when you have these five hours and they see what you also actually get more fish.

So the fishermen end up with,  bolstered economy from, from that front as well.

 

 

Morgan: [00:23:13] Got it. So you've got this concept that you're going to take smart farming techniques. You're going to dial them in with all of the oceanographic technology that we've been building over the last few decades and optimize this for exactly what these fishers would need to properly farm kelp in California.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:23:29] Yeah. Yeah, in California and around the world,

you know, that I'm working with, with people in Europe as well, and looking in developing nations, 

Morgan: [00:23:40] where does this stand? Like how far are you along on this project? Where does your company stand right now?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:23:47] we have been working on this software for a few years. we are  prototyping some of our hardware right now with some of the software, but we are really in kind of a, really a startup stage, I would say, the, the company was launched this year. Unfortunately, there have been some delays due to COVID all of the, field tests that had been planned had to be delayed, unfortunately.

 it is what it is,  we are  looking to a number of different funding sources to continue to, develop and prototype , some of the hardware and actually get , some field tests out. So , we're currently in the, looking for funding stage.

Morgan: [00:24:31] Yep. How many people work with you on this project?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:24:35] So myself, I have an intern and, the technology that I'm commercializing, is, is Tom bell, at UCS SBE and some, some of his other colleagues, as well as Kristen Davis at UC Irvine. as well as an open source technology called smart farm. but   technically the only member of my LLC is me.

Morgan: [00:24:58] Nice.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:25:00] Like I said, I do have an intern, but you know, I have a fabulous board of advisors, but technically I own 100% of my company and I am the only member officially of my board, for the sake of simplicity at this time.

Morgan: [00:25:15] to this startup. I know you work on some other projects as well. can you tell us a little bit about your work consulting

Rae Fuhrman: [00:25:22] yeah. So, I've been consulting with a company who is, harvesting the Sargassum from the Sargasso sea Sargassum is a Brown  seaweed  . there is a large, bloom  in the Sargasso sea, but it's actually largely caused by farm runoff.

From, farms in the Amazon rainforest basin. So again, back to this land use changes, right? There's all this clear cutting of rainforests creation of farm lands, the dumping of nitrogen on these farm lands, which then runs off into the ocean, which is then absorbed by various types of algae, and leads to these blooms.

And. These blooms can actually be really problematic for a number of reasons. and so what this company is doing is harvesting, this Sargassum, both from the sea, as well as from these huge pileups that, occur on the beaches. they can be meters high of just literally seaweed piling up on the beach.

would you get, imagine is not so great for tourists, right? And beyond that, it starts to anaerobically digest from the inside of the seaweed pile, emitting huge amounts of methane, which is this super potent greenhouse gas. . most of what is currently being done with it, this, Sargassum that ends up on the beaches, it's just been put in landfills, which is just leading to even more methane expulsion.

 what we're doing is collecting these seaweeds off the beach, from the ocean before they're able to get on the beach and, utilizing them to turn them into valuable products. we are really focused on,  arrow, gels hydrogels and biopolymers.  all different types of packaging.

 looking into maybe replacing styrofoam, for example, really, as I mentioned at the beginning of this, anything that you can make from a fossil fuel, you can make from seaweed.

Morgan: [00:27:27] Is your role in this company also about monitoring and sensors things like that.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:27:33] So my role in his company largely has to do with my experience in macro algae farming, as well as my knowledge of the industry, my knowledge of the markets.  Something that they're looking to do in the future.

My, I really actually accepted this role to work with them they are looking to develop these Marine permaculture arrays. Which is exactly what I've been talking about with growing seaweed, bivalves, .

having these ecosystems out in the ocean that we have, real time automated monitoring of and are done in these technologically advanced ways in the most economical way possible.  there is the potential that moving forward with the development of these arrays, we will,  use the monitoring equipment from my company, stingray sensing, and  move forward in tandem.

 

Morgan: [00:28:27] So your career path is really interesting you have your own business and you're an independent consultant working on these really cool issues.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:28:35] Thank you,

Morgan: [00:28:36] What is your day to day?

Like, what does it mean to actually have a startup? What do you do?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:28:43] you know, it is a complex question to answer, honestly. a lot of what I do is, meeting with all kinds of different people and just asking people questions, getting to know , what are the problems that. People who are trying to be different types of Marine farmers are having right, talking to different regulators and understanding what their perspective is.

really just gaining an understanding of exactly how I can best move the needle forward in this industry. As well as, all the kind of day-to-day stuff of, you know, I'm building a new website. I recently hired an intern, all of the accounting and bookkeeping that very soon, I am hoping to hire someone to take care of.

But at the moment I do everything myself.  I do a lot of things. Myself. I wear many hats. I do a lot of data analysis,  I read about various policy initiatives and how they might have an effect on the local policy or international policy as it may stand.

what I love so much, honestly, about seaweed and about seaweed aquaculture is that. It is just so multifaceted. And, it sits at this intersection of policy and, healthy, sustainable food and  this, potential solution to climate change.

And me personally, I, I love that, you know, I think that that's part of what has hindered this industry moving forward is that it's really just honestly incredibly complex. but what I've been working to do over the last 10 years is slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together and identify what has been holding this industry back.

And that's how I've gotten to this idea of monitoring and that the lack of automated monitoring is what's preventing this industry from really growing, and, moving forward sustainably.

 

Morgan: [00:30:44] Beautiful. So how did you get started with stingray sensing? I should say the name of your business, more stingray sensing. how what's your professional path to getting started with a new

Rae Fuhrman: [00:30:54] Ooh. So, my undergraduate degree was actually in international relations , from USC. I minored in environmental science and neuroscience, because that is just the kind of person that I am.

Morgan: [00:31:09] All the things we'll

Rae Fuhrman: [00:31:10] All the things.

but you'll notice none of that really said Marine, right.  something that I emphasize to all of the students and younger people out there listening is networking is key.

I have gotten every single one of my jobs through networking. No joke, never through applying with a resume and a cover. Have I gotten a job 100% of the time through networking?  after I graduated college, I was kind of floundering a little bit really, because I didn't quite know what I wanted to do.

 I knew I was interested in, environmental policy and Marine environmental policy, but  I looked at all of these job opportunities and it really seemed like anything that I was interested in either wanted me to have like a decade of experience or a master's degree or a PhD, none of which I had obviously as a, you know, a recent college graduate, and really all of the jobs that were.

Offered in my, you know, quote unquote experience level just seemed absolutely boring. I just, so I, you know, I reached out to a professor of mine who I had kind of developed this sort of mentor relationship with, Jim Fosset at USC. And,  talked to him about these issues I was having and,  he recommended that.

He said, Oh, you know, there's this guy, Dr. Jerry schuble, he's the president of the aquarium of the Pacific, and I think that he might have some ideas for you of, you know, potential jobs or, you know, have some networking ideas, .

 so,  he set up this meeting for me, with Jerry  which it really wasn't actually supposed to be a job interview was supposed to be a conversation.

 he ended up offering me an internship on the spot.  he said, you know, he would go to his board and try to figure out what he could do so that we could work together. So here's an example of  creating this path for yourself  maybe, there wasn't a job out there, but that doesn't mean that you can't make that job. Right.

Morgan: [00:33:16] You had to ask.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:33:18] Exactly. And so I ended up working with him for about three years, as well as for Kim Thompson, who was the head of the seafood for the future program. and through them, we. put on a number of, sustainable seafood forums where we brought together numerous different stakeholders to develop, consistent messaging on agriculture.

 What, what can we all agree upon our messages for, for agriculture moving forward? . As fishermen, as nonprofits, ?  what do we agree upon and how can we, make this industry, responsible, ? How can we do this in a responsibly managed way that considers all of the different stakeholders considerations? And I was really fortunate that, you know, we were actually some of the first,  nonprofit to put together, a forum like this.

And so, it was kind of a right time, right place kind of thing.

  I worked there for a few years and, it was actually Jerry, who suggested to me that I applied to the Bren school at UC SB. you know, they have this incredible. Team environment where you solve a real environmental issue. it's not just the science itself, it's not just the policy. It's really critical to understand how those things intersect.

So that's something that I personally really been working on ,  having this broader understanding  of management so that we can, effectively use resources in a way that's going to be fair and equitable and sustainable.

 

Morgan: [00:34:58] Yeah. So in terms of starting a startup and running a startup, do you have a most and least favorite aspect of that job?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:35:08] My most favorite is that I am my own boss

and. Nobody tells me what to do ever. And I can always say no to anything I want, which is just so fabulous, honestly, the end of the day. and you know, I don't, I don't have to compromise on, things that I think are wrong, you know?  And, I really have the opportunity to, to pioneer, And I would say that's also my least favorite part of it is that I am pioneering and I am really working in this space that quite frankly many have failed him. And that's scary when you think about it, right.

you sort of question yourself, right? Like why do I think that I can do something and that all of these other people have failed at. but you have to kind of have this, almost blind confidence in yourself to some degree and kind of just manifest a positive outlook and also recognize at the end of the day that.

There is no failing, right. That,  I'm really just trying to do something good. And I'm trying to, build this environmentally sustainable business. And at the end of the day, if it doesn't work out. The more I , quote, unquote, fail. The more I learn,  that is how you move forward in life is by making mistakes,  and by putting yourself out there and taking risks,   it's also just, it's, it's really exciting, you know, because I think about all of the potential it's just really exciting.

 

Morgan: [00:36:49] So if somebody listening to this and they're feeling really inspired and they'd love to think about striking out and creating their own independent startup or other company in some sort of ocean tech related fields. Do you have any advice for them? What would you suggest they do?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:37:06] get out there and. Talk to different users of the space and get an understanding of, what technologies currently exist. and what are the different options and different strategies that they could potentially utilize for ocean conservation or for, improved utilization of Marine resources.

 and I would just say, don't give up, startups are hard, no matter what. And when it comes to things in the Marine space, things become just kind of an extra degree of hard because it's just this area that people are very unfamiliar with, 

Morgan: [00:37:45] what you said at the beginning is that this is growing at some absurd amount per

Rae Fuhrman: [00:37:50] Yes, absolutely. So, you know, when it comes to seaweed farming, right. If you're looking to be a farmer, for example, California might take a few years. I, you know, I'm personally working on it, but there is opportunities all over the world. So for example, in Maine, there are huge amounts of new seaweed farms, kelp farms, popping up.

 as well as the fact that we can look at this. Global movement, towards renewable energy sources towards,  not utilizing single use plastics. there are companies who are looking to, offset their carpet, right. So we can potentially look at the carbon sequestration of kelp and building up a carbon market.

 there are, huge amounts of companies that have pledged to be, zero net, carbon by 2040, or 2050  and they're all going to be looking for. Ways that they can offset their carbon. . So , there really is. definitely a lot of opportunities in macro algae farming moving forward, I would say.

Morgan: [00:38:51] Very cool.

 I have one last, very important question for you, which is, can you introduce us to the animal that seems to be with you there?

Yes. could you just tell us about Luca for a second?

Rae Fuhrman: [00:39:04] So the guy is the light of my life, honestly. he has a wonderful cattle dog mix and he's like, why are you putting me on your lap?

Morgan: [00:39:14] For those of you that can't see him. He's got a really nice, like white, with little black spots,

Rae Fuhrman: [00:39:19] belly.

Okay. Yes, he does. He has, he's got little black spots on his white, white socks. He's very, very smart. very, very talkative. So may have heard him on the podcast.

Morgan: [00:39:33] thank you for the introduction.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:39:35] So great to talk to you today, Morgan, I'm really happy to have this conversation with you. And if anybody listening today wants to reach out to me, or any of your students please, you know, feel free to contact me. I'm at Rae, R a E . There's my dog again, at stingray sensing,

 I, love to talk to you. If you have any interest in seaweed, farming.

Morgan: [00:39:57] Sounds great. You heard it here first stingray sensing the future of seaweed aquaculture.

Rae Fuhrman: [00:40:02] Thank you so much, Morgan.

  Thanks as always to Eleanor Durand and to Dust on the Radio for our theme song, one way trip to Mars. So remember, have Rae told us about how whales might get entangled in kelp farms. This goes beyond kelp to all sorts of aquaculture. And it's a big issue for whales in California.

Next week, we'll learn more from Laura Ingulsrud. A Knauss fellow soon to be with NOAA, the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration. Working specifically on whale entanglements see you then.

University of California

Santa Barbara, USA

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