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Bren Smith, executive director of GreenWave, harvests seaweed from his boat Mookie III off the Thimble Islands in Long Island Sound. Photograph: Ron Gatreau - 

One of the most prestigious prizes in sustainability, the Fuller Challenge, has been awarded to a commercial fisherman turned entrepreneur who once worked on factory trawlers pillaging the seas of fish. Following hurricanes Irene and Sandy, Bren Smith, founder of the ocean farming non-profit GreenWave, said he had a change of heart and began to search for a more sustainable form of fishing seafood.

“I had to adapt and reimagine how I was going to grow for this new era of climate change … what species do I pick, what technologies do I use,” he said.

So Smith invented the world’s first 3D ocean farm. Not only does his model aim to reduce overfishing, but it also attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change. Seaweed and oysters  two of the species Smith grows  soak up carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gases emitted through human activities.

“Imagine an underwater garden where we have seaweeds on the surface, hanging vertically down next to next to mussels and scallops, and below that we have oysters,” said Smith of the farm’s design.

He envisions a world where seaweed and bivalves are at the center of our plates and wild fish is off to the side. Think: kelp noodle barbeque parsnips with breadcrumbs, a dish Smith says is selling out in restaurants throughout New York City.

With scalability in mind, Smith wanted his model to be simple and replicable. To that end, GreenWave supports other fish farmers to get create their own 3D ocean gardens.

“If you were to take a network of our farms totaling the size of Washington state, technically you could feed the world,” Smith said.

Click below to hear an extended version of our conversation with Bren Smith, founder of GreenWave.

Follow David Brancaccio at @DavidBrancaccio