Seawater Farming and Coastal Protection – 4 June 2019

Glasgow-based Yanik Nyberg is a young man with great ambition and aspirations to help save our planet from environmental catastrophe. In a relaxed and level-toned manner he explained to the members how close Scotland and the rest of the world is to reaching a point of no return from the disastrous effects of climate change, intensive, rising sea levels, soil nutrient reduction and coastal erosion. His small, but growing, company, Seawater Solutions Ltd, is pioneering seawater farming in the UK. Their Scottish pilot projects, including two in Ayrshire, seek to introduce new crops and sustainable farming practices to the region and to prepare farmers for the worst effects of climate change. Irregular and changing rainfall patterns in the west of Scotland together with tightening environmental regulations are creating significant problems for farmers and their ability to remain competitive in a changing market.

Seawater Solutions redevelops coastal farmland in Scotland in order to grow saline vegetables, such as Samphire, using seawater. Samphire is a nutritious and versatile marine plant which provides food and fuel for coastal communities as well as protection to sensitive and vulnerable coastal habitats. Seawater Solutions, working with partner organisations including Strathclyde University, local authorities, Scottish Natural Heritage, and others, have identified significant opportunity for farmers, both in diversifying their businesses and in promoting the environmental health of their land. The business helps reduce the risk of entry into the young saline agricultural sector for their partner farmers while aiming to provide a cost-effective system which reduces operational costs and produces high-value crops for an expanding domestic sea-vegetable market.

Yanik believes that the pilot projects could bring immense benefits to Ayrshire and other Scottish coastline farming communities. His team are exploring the potential for wild salt-tolerant species called halophytes in addressing environmental issues such as coastal erosion, waterway pollution from agricultural and industrial pollutants, and rehabilitating wetland habitats such as the Irvine estuary.

Among a number of awards, Yanik was recently the recipient of the 2109 Young Innovator of the Year Award. He explained that Seawater Solutions is funded mostly by research and innovation grants and praised the commitment of his colleagues and the many volunteers who are passionate in their desire to save our environment. He urged people to get involved and to become inspired. We must change the ways we live in order to ensure our survival.

Jimmy Begg, in his vote of thanks, congratulated Yanik on his sobering talk and his easy way of explaining the complex problems which face us all. He looked forward to the day when we would need to ask only for vinegar on our chips rather than the customary “salt and vinegar”.