We Like Your Mussels

Forget Silicon Valley. Something big is happening in LA. The Catalina Sea Ranch is revolutionizing sustainable aquaculture. It is dedicated to growing mussels (though it’s investigating other crops) in an unobtrusive, cost efficient, and productive way. In aquaculture, a field traditionally ridden with complications, this is a huge deal.

Seventy three year old CEO Phil Cruver candidly reported to Fast Company that he is neither scientist nor environmentalist - he’s an entrepreneur. He came across the idea while reading about mussels that grew haphazardly on the sides of deep water oil rigs. The companies that scraped them off sold the mussels for a profit.

Mussels don’t need sand or mud to grow in, unlike clams. They’ll grow on anything they can attach to, and they feed themselves by filtering ocean water. So Cruver simply seeds long loops of rope, suspends them 20 feet underwater, and waits for them to grow. As of now, he harvests about 50,000 pounds per year, and averages over 50% profit per pound.

The Sea Ranch has set its sights high. They plan to expand their current facilities in support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) goal to increase sustainable aquaculture 50% by 2020. And, they’re moving beyond mussels to incorporate other sea life, like Giant kelp, scallops, oysters, abalones, and Spiny lobsters. These species could use a helping hand: they are vital to healthy ocean ecosystems, but threatened due to overfishing and climate change.

This kind of farming is an ideal example of scalable sustainability: the Sea Ranch spends a small sum to place mussels on ropes in the ocean (with minimal environmental impact), and a year later pulls up a gigantic harvest that they sell at a reasonable rate. Cruver’s Ranch has the potential to provide fresh and nutritious protein to a lot of people at an affordable price.

Now that’s what WE’RE talking about.

Team HF