Growing rice in the ocean seems odd. Nevertheless, ocean agriculture is a rising form of food production with real potential.
Unfortunately, less than 1% of fresh water is available for human-purpose, and 70% of that is being used for agriculture worldwide.
Growing demand for food and the rise of the population are pushing researchers to search for new areas where agriculture has never reached there before.
One crop taking to the sea is rice. A company led by two 24-year-old scientists aim to grow salt-tolerant rice and floating ocean farms by 2021. As a part of this project, this team is expected to make small pilot farms by the end of 2020.
Currently, around 7.7 billion people are living on the planet. Also, an expected 2 billion more will join the lines by 2050. So, ensuring enough food for all is important. That is why; some companies are finding solutions to ecological problems, such as sea-level rise, through scientific advancement.
Most of the water used in agriculture is for irrigation, and rice is one of the most water-concentrated crops, also widely consumed grain worldwide.
Around 90% of total rice production is in Asia alone. Around 3.5 billion people rely on rice every day. So, people have long been interested in manipulating rice genes to achieve certain goals.
Manipulating the rice genome is not a new task. The Golden Rice Project started in 1999, was to address the widespread vitamin A deficiency, and causing blindness in many rice staple countries.
AgriSea is captivating a new approach to food science.
They want to grow rice in the ocean by using gene-editing, which would intensify the phrase of genes available in rice that control salt-tolerance.
Salt-tolerant rice could be grown in salty ocean water without the use of soil, fertilizer or freshwater.
Also, they have identified the genes that control for salt expulsion, cellular insulation and DNA protection, and are enhancing the expression of those genes.
“Together these genes act in a network, just like they do in nature,” Luke Young, CEO and co-founder of Agrisea said.
“We just encourage them along the pathways that nature has formed in plants that can thrive in a salty environment.” The co-founders explained that they could use repeated selective breeding in rice to get the same result, but gene-editing just speeds up the process.
The first step in the process was to create a portfolio of salt-resistant crops that will eventually grow in floating ocean farms around the world.
AgriSea is already in discussion with major rice-producing countries; Nigeria, China, Vietnam and Bangladesh, as well as New Zealand, the USA, Japan and Chile, to establish these floating ocean farms.
Also, the company plans to have their first small pilot farms in the water by the end of 2020, they expect to have multiple larger pilot farms in the ocean by the end of 2021.