Community Ocean Farms and Local Business Clusters in the Baltic and North Seas

With Earth’s burgeoning population to feed, we must turn to the Sea with understanding and new technology. We need to farm it as we farm the land.

– Jacques Yves Cousteau

Cultivating community across European seas

The COOL BLUE projects comprise a Horizon Europe Coordination and Support Action (Cool Blue Nordic, ID: 101112747) and an EMFAF flagship project (Cool Blue Baltic, ID: 101124475).

Both projects aim to support community-led regenerative “ocean farming” in marine, brackish or freshwater ecosystems across the Baltic and North Seas.

The projects hope to create an enabling environment for community enterprises predominantly through education, awareness-raising and community activism. Together, the projects will demonstrate the technical, social, economic and environmental feasibility of regenerative aquaculture to restore ecosystems while creating future-proof jobs in the process.

Regenerative. Community. Aquaculture.

Making aquaculture work for everyone

— How can ecosystem restoration be monetised as a viable community enterprise?

— How do we design viable businesses that put people and planet before profit

— How do we develop abundant, self-reinforcing aquatic farming systems?

— How can communities become caretakers of their local coastal and marine areas?

COOL BLUE aims to find answers to these questions by building resilient networks of community-run aquaculture farms (also known as “marine allotments” or “blue community gardens”) through events, networking, education, business development and grassroots activism.

The project team will offer support to communities in setting up their own regenerative business clusters, from fishers to farmers, processors, restaurants, artists, educators, tour guides and more.

Communities will be able to contact the COOL BLUE Regenerative Ocean Farming Helpdesk to be connected with initiatives in their region, initially focusing on Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The Cool Blue Baltic project will take this further, developing a regenerative action plan comprising a common licensing framework, a funding mechanism, an MPA stewardship programme, a data-sharing network and an online training platform alongside various events, all co-developed with local authorities and communities.

What is regenerative aquaculture?

Just add water

Regenerative aquaculture is a novel approach to aquatic farming systems which simultaneously produces food and other byproducts by cultivating species which regenerate the surrounding ecosystem (including human ecosystems) to support more life, while creating education and business opportunities in the local economy.

It focuses on restoring nutrient cycles, increasing biodiversity, improving water quality, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration and increasing resilience to climate change while strengthening the health and interrelationships of human and aquatic ecosystems.

It does this through community-scale cultivation of zero-input species such as shellfish, seaweed, seagrass and coastal plants which “clean” and oxygenate the water, stabilise sediments, provide habitat for other species while creating new sources of income for local people.

Ecosystems which have been degraded from human activity or climate change can be restored for commercial gain, either through local business development or investment through government subsidies or private sponsorship.

The benefits have ripple effects in the local community, creating opportunities for community events, education, tourism, citizen science and more in a positive feedback loop.

What is regenerative business?

Moving beyond sustainability

Regenerative businesses go beyond sustainability by putting back more than they take out, nourishing (rather than degrading) the very ecosystems that sustain them. From restoring ecosystems to creating local jobs, hosting events, educating each other, developing local products, addressing mental health and building social networks, regenerative businesses reverse negative trends to keep wealth within local economies, building natural and social as well as financial capital.

The 5 key principles of regenerative business:

  1. Regenerative businesses go beyond mitigation to regeneration, doing more good instead of minimising harm.
  2. Beyond profit accumulation to direct re-investment, putting money straight back into the community.
  3. Beyond competition to mutual benefits, emphasising cooperation and fairness instead of a “survival of the fittest” mentality.
  4. Beyond fragmented supply chains to ones that are locally rooted, keeping it local instead of outsourcing or importing.
  5. Beyond hierarchical structures to developmental, enabling environments, letting communities make the decisions through a participatory learning approach.

Funded by the European Union under Grant Agreement ID 101112747. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.