In­ter­est grows in ocean kelp forests

The Weekend Australian - - BUSINESS - DA­MON KITNEY

He’s been called the “world’s most pow­er­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist”, giv­ing away more than $US17 mil­lion ($23.6m) an­nu­ally to his cho­sen causes though his Gran­tham Foun­da­tion for the Pro­tec­tion of the En­vi­ron­ment.

Now Jeremy Gran­tham, whose Bos­ton-based firm Gran­tham, Mayo, & van Ot­ter­loo (bet­ter known as GMO) has more than $118 bil­lion in as­sets, looks set to link up with a group of Aus­tralian high-net­worth in­vestors to sup­port work to re­gen­er­ate the na­tion’s ocean kelp forests.

They also hope that the feed­ing of some of the har­vested sea­weed to live­stock can help re­duce the car­bon emis­sions that flow from Aus­tralia’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor, which largely come from the meth­ane emit­ted by cat­tle and sheep.

In May, a del­e­ga­tion from the Aus­tralian branch of the Pri­vate Wealth Net­work, an in­ter­na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion for fam­i­lies of sig­nif­i­cant wealth, vis­ited GMO’s Bos­ton head­quar­ters to meet with Mr Gran­tham.

There, Brian von Herzen, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Gran­tham-backed Cli­mate Foun­da­tion and the Woods Hole Oceano­graphic In­sti­tu­tion, pre­sented them with his dream to re­ju­ve­nate the forests of the ocean through the prac­tice of marine per­ma­cul­ture.

It in­volves sink­ing large car­bon frames planted with kelp and in­ter­spersed with con­tain­ers for shell­fish and other kinds of fish 25m be­low the sur­face of the ocean. Cold water is then piped from the depth be­low to ir­ri­gate the kelp.

“Jeremy has been sup­port­ing us for more than two years with bridge fund­ing and we are now look­ing to scale that,’’ Dr von Herzen said. “I am work­ing with his foun­da­tion every month.

“It is a real plea­sure to be able to sit with him and talk about the de­vel­op­ments and po­ten­tial. It is the scaleabil­ity of this tech­nol­ogy that is re­ally at­trac­tive.’’

At the May fo­rum, he told the Aus­tralian PWN mem­bers how marine per­ma­cul­ture could re­ju­ve­nate float­ing kelp forests that could re­store marine habi­tats and ecosys­tems, help­ing re­gen­er­ate fish­eries. They could also gen­er­ate feed for cat­tle without the need for fresh­wa­ter and pro­vide fer­tiliser for crops.

“Richard Mil­roy, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the PWH in Aus­tralia, liked my pre­sen­ta­tion so much he asked us to present in Aus­tralia, which we have been do­ing over these past few weeks,’’ Dr von Herzen said. There were pre­sen­ta­tions in Mel­bourne a fort­night ago. This week he pre­sented in Syd­ney.

“We have got a lot of in­ter­est and sup­port from some of the key mem­bers that were with us in Bos­ton. They are now look­ing at pro­vid­ing im­pact fund­ing for marine per­ma­cul­ture.”

So­cial im­pact in­vest­ment — which pro­vides in­vestors with fi­nan­cial as well as so­cial re­turns — has al­ready at­tracted the at­ten­tion of some of the na­tion’s big­gest su­per­an­nu­a­tion funds.

Dr von Herzen said the lo­cal in­vestors were look­ing to match the fund­ing for the projects pro­vided by Mr Gran­tham and other US bene­fac­tors.

“One of the rea­sons Jeremy spoke to PWN in May was to fos­ter ad­di­tional like-minded bene­fac­tors and fun­ders to join him in mak­ing this a re­al­ity — to re­gen­er­ate life in the ocean,’’ he said. “Ide­ally we will de­velop a syn­di­cate of Aus­tralian im­pact fun­ders who will match Jeremy’s fund­ing … It will likely be mil­lions of dol­lars.”

The CSIRO and Meat and Live­stock Aus­tralia have pre­vi­ously doc­u­mented that a 1 per cent sea­weed cat­tle feed sup­ple­ment could elim­i­nate 50-90 per cent of the meth­ane emis­sions from live­stock.

Dr von Herzen is now talk­ing with Meat and Live­stock Aus­tralia to col­lab­o­rate on sea­weed pro­duc­tion in Queens­land so that the wider de­ploy­ment of the projects across Aus­tralia could help make cat­tle farm­ing car­bon neg­a­tive by 2025.

Sep­a­rately, he has been in­vited by the Great Bar­rier Reed Marine Park Au­thor­ity to de­ploy a kelp sys­tem off the Great Bar­rier Reef to re­verse the co­ral dam­age there and is look­ing at do­ing the same along the West Aus­tralian coast­line.

He also has an ac­tive project in Tas­ma­nia to re­verse the dam­age of salmon farm­ing.

“If you look at WA, we have lost 1000sq km of kelp for­est,’’ he said. “At the grass­roots level, the sup­port for this has been in­cred­i­ble in Aus­tralia.”


Brian von Herzen is ad­vo­cat­ing so­cial im­pact in­vest­ment

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