Why We Should ‘Farm The Ocean Like We Farm The Lands’

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(CNN) — The lure of the open ocean has long been the stuff of poetry. For Brian O’Hanlon, it led to his life’s work.

O’Hanlon is the founder and president of Open Blue, the largest open-ocean fish farm in the world. He’s also a pioneer in raising fish far out at sea. O’Hanlon believes that the depth of the water and swift currents make for a much healthier environment to raise fish than traditional farms near shore or on land. Aquaculture in the open ocean also avoids damaging sensitive coastal ecosystems.

O’Hanlon’s team raises the fish from eggs so they control their diet at every stage of development.

“Not only are you getting cleaner fish,” O’Hanlon says, “it’s free of any of those harmful contaminants that you commonly see in the news around seafood, such as PCBs, mercury, pesticides. It doesn’t exist. And we can prove it.”

O’Hanlon plans to bring full traceability to the consumer. Every fish now leaves the farm tagged with a QR code which, in the coming months, will connect the buyer to a website full of information on each fish — when it was harvested, when it was shipped, even what it was fed.

As a boy growing up on the Long Island Sound in New York, O’Hanlon was drawn to the sea.

“I just loved being on the water as a kid,” O’Hanlon said. “In winter times, the times when we were away from the ocean, I would just have this hole inside of me.”

O’Hanlon’s is third generation in the seafood business. His love of the ocean and his family’s ties to the industry gave him an early education in the perils of overfishing and the consequences of soaring demand – wild fisheries brought to the brink of collapse.

So, as a teenager, O’Hanlon became convinced that the future of fishing lay in providing a healthy, sustainable supply of seafood. He decided then to dedicate his life to farming in the open ocean and has spent the last decade doggedly pursuing his dream.

“The vision is to farm the ocean like we farm the lands,” says O’Hanlon. “And I think in time, we’ll see an evolution in the way that we farm, the scale that we farm, the type of organisms that we farm, where … one day, offshore, we will be producing products to feed the world.”

O’Hanlon’s passion for the sea and innovative ideas may just steer an old business in a new direction.

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