Sam Elsom is saving the world with seaweed.
As the CEO of Tasmania’s Sea Forest, Sam Elsom is fighting climate change by cultivating red seaweed forests that sequester carbon and reduce methane emissions. We were lucky enough to catch up with Sam to hear about the science of seaweed, the wonders of the natural world, and how he keeps up hope.
Tell us how Sea Forest works.
Sea Forest uses science to cultivate a natural solution to climate change: Seaweed! Our seaweed research team consists of world-leading scientists, marine farmers, and engineers who are pioneering a new and environmentally positive industry.
How can seaweed save the world?
Seaweeds hold incredible potential to curb climate change by capturing carbon and nitrogen through photosynthesis. But unlike land-based plants, seaweeds don’t rely on finite resources like fresh water, fertilizers, or pesticides and can grow up to 30 times faster than their land-based counterparts.
Also, this special seaweed, when fed to cows and sheep, can virtually eliminate methane — a gas with 28 times the warming impact of CO2 on our atmosphere.
What can we do to help?
In the last 10 years, global temperatures have been the highest ever recorded. From increased frequency and intensity of droughts, bush fires, and floods — extreme weather events the scientists have been warning us about — the impacts of climate change are truly here. So what are we going to do about it?
Demand change from businesses and brands. Tell our banks and superannuation funds to reduce emissions. Creating industrial behavioural change is what is most important. I'm optimistic mainly because there has never been a time in human history when more people were focused on developing ways to reduce our impact on the planet and reduce emissions, like renewable energy, electric cars, developing circular economies, improving the soil on farms to store more carbon and restoring biodiversity corridors. If you want to be a part of building a better tomorrow, think about what skills you have to start a new wave of businesses innovating for the future.
How does Sea Forest contribute to biodiversity?
We're commited to protecting natural marine biodiversity by never introducing non-native seaweeds to the ocean. The reason we chose our site was because the seaweed we grow was already growing abundant and wild.
Sea Forest also supports the restoration of underwater forests. In Tasmania. 95% of our wondrous giant kelp forests have been wiped out, which is detrimental to other marine life. Our team has developed a way to trigger reproduction and grow the endangered Kelp from spores to seedlings and is working with the University of Tasmania and local community groups to replant the marine forest. Last year we provided 250,000 small seedlings to be planted on the ocean floor and have established the Sea Forest Foundation to continue to support this initiative.
How does Sea Forest impact local communities?
Sea Forest is located in a small regional town about an hour outside of Hobart, Tasmania with a population of around 300 people, 45 of whom work at Sea Forest. This team of passionate individuals, from laborers to scientists to engineers, are responsible for the incredible progress the company has made in a short period of time. The people in this tiny remote town are the ones changing the world.
Sam Elsom acknowledges the Muwinina people who are the traditional Custodians of the land on which Sea Forest operates and pays respect to the Elders past, present, and emerging.