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RHR: Regenerative Aquaculture and a Sustainable Future For Our Oceans, with James Arthur Smith


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In this episode of Revolution Health Radio, Chris Kresser speaks with James Arthur Smith, founder of Seatopia and a pioneer in sustainable aquaculture. James shares his journey from an ocean enthusiast to an innovator in Aquaculture 3.0, emphasizing the transformation of seafood farming practices for better health and environmental sustainability. They discuss the misconceptions about farmed fish, the nutritional and ecological benefits of modern aquaculture, and the future potential of these practices. The conversation offers valuable insights into how regenerative aquaculture can provide healthier, toxin-free seafood while supporting the health of our oceans.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Introduction to modern aquaculture
  • What proper aquaculture looks like
  • Appropriate fish feed
  • Toxin accumulation
  • Sustainability and the future of aquaculture

Show notes:


Hey everybody, Chris Kresser here. Welcome to another episode of Revolution Health Radio. If you listen to this podcast, you probably think quite a bit about how you source the food you eat from grass-fed or pasture-raised animal products to organic and local produce. But what about seafood?

Historically, we have been led to believe that wild-caught seafood is far healthier than farm-raised seafood, and in a lot of cases, that’s true. It’s definitely my bias as well. But there are a growing number of challenges when it comes to wild-caught seafood, from an increase in toxins like mercury in the ocean and microplastics, which are now typically found in seafood and studies [have linked] to cardiovascular disease and other health problems, to overfishing and unsustainable global fisheries. So I have been doing a lot of research into aquaculture recently and it turns out, as you might expect, there have been pretty massive changes and improvements in aquaculture in the last few decades, in the same way that there have been a lot of improvements and innovations and a resurgence of older, more traditional practices in the worlds of regenerative agriculture and ruminant livestock production.

I’m really excited to welcome James Arthur Smith as my guest. He is, like me, an avid lover of the ocean. Surfer, yachtsman, and the founder of a company called Seatopia. He has spent the last eight years immersing himself in the aquaculture industry by personally visiting farms, eating the feed the fish eat, diving under the grow out pens, and testing the harvested products in the labs. He is an expert in aquaculture, and he has started a company based around the version 3.0 practices of aquaculture, which really blew my mind when I learned more about them. We’re going to talk about the modern aquaculture practices that have the potential to dramatically increase the nutritional value of seafood in a sustainable and potentially scalable way, the environmental benefits of aquaculture, how aquaculture can reduce the presence of toxins like mercury and microplastics, [and] how they can support local food systems and contribute to things like kelp reforestation. This was a very fascinating conversation. I learned a lot and I hope you will too. Let’s dive in.

Chris Kresser:  James, pleasure to have you on the show. Welcome.

James Arthur Smith:  Thank you. Thanks, Chris. Pleasure to meet you.

Chris Kresser:  I’m looking forward to this conversation. You and I share a passion for the ocean. [We’re] both life[long] surfers. I know you also sail, and we both spent a lot of time in the ocean over many years. When we were chatting in [our] initial phone call, I mentioned that I was struck by how many people, at least in my circle, think quite a bit about sourcing when it comes to ruminant animals that they might eat like beef, lamb, maybe pork, chicken, some of the more commonly consumed meats, and they’re aware of the importance of that. And they’re [also] aware of [the] term factory farming [or] factory meat, [which] is raised in factory or confinement type of conditions, and that [it’s] a very bad thing relative to pasture-raised beef/grass-fed beef. So I think there’s an awareness, at least in my audience, that wild-caught fish are better than farmed fish. I think [for] most people, the image they might get in their mind [of farmed fish] is of salmon that’s basically white, that has almost no color, or maybe farmed catfish or something like that. And it strikes me that I think there’s a pretty big perception gap between the reality of what’s happening now with aquaculture and what a lot of consumers’ perception is. So that’s where I’d like to start, because this is what you’ve devoted your life to recently. Why don’t you just start us off by telling us a little bit about what you do and how you got into it and then we’ll go from there.

Introduction to Modern Aquaculture

James Arthur Smith:  Right on, thank you so much. It is a huge stigma misconception that we’re endeavoring to slowly break through. And it’s difficult to bring everybody to visit farms and take everybody swimming in an aquaculture site that is doing it right. But there is a vast difference, just like with beef and chicken, between industrial-scale factory farms and artisan farms that are doing it right. The solutions are beautiful places that you want to visit, that you want to swim in, [and] that are creating bio-diverse habitats that are fish attracting devices that deserve [to be] shared.

I got into this because I was working with a farm in the Sea of Cortez that was producing some of the most beautiful sushi grade yellowtail on the planet. These fish were deserving of being [in] any Michelin star restaurant and were being featured on Michelin star restaurant [menus]. But we didn’t actually know who our customers were when we were selling [the] product, as most farms do, especially internationally. We [were] selling through an importer, and then they [sold] to master distributors who [sold] to other distributors, who then turn around and deliver to the restaurants, [in] the best case scenario. Educating the chefs and customers about the type of fish that they’re selling and how it was farmed, or where it was farmed, or the name of the farm is not normally what happens. Generally what happened was the restaurant kind of got a telephone game story of what they were selling. Half the time they would mislabel it, and half the time they didn’t even know what they were getting because it was lost in translation. As a farmer endeavoring to produce a better quality product, [and] as a farmer using better quality feeds [like] microalgae-based oils and insect proteins, as opposed to commodity [genetically modified organism] (GMO) soy and corn or overfished bait stocks, if there’s not a direct correlation between the end buyer and the farmer, [or] if there’s not a financial incentive for us to be improving and we’re just getting negotiated for lower prices because XYZ farm doing something similar with lower quality ingredients and practices is selling it cheaper, there just wasn’t an incentive.

So I had this sort of epiphany moment that the same principles we see in wine, we need to figure out how to do for seafood– the estate-grown, no sulfates, push towards natural wines. And we see the same thing with beef– the transition from consumers just wanting USDA prime to knowing why grass-fed, grass-finished regenerative practices are important, and knowing the names of specific farms that they want to support and actually putting their dollars towards it. That had to happen for seafood. And it was just such a long way off from achieving that, and we’re just kind of at the tip of the iceberg now, working through Seatopia. But that’s kind of how I got into this. From a passion standpoint [and] from a mission standpoint, [I] wanted to be a part of really innovative aquaculture projects. I was introduced to the concept of aquaculture when I was working at an aquarium by some[one] who planted this vision, this idea. The inception was [that], done right, we [could] mitigate pressure on the wild stock, we could rehabilitate and release these native species back into the habitat, and [we could] grow enough food to feed our local communities. That concept, so beautifully presented to me by the gentleman who was running the aquarium in San Diego where I grew up, really inspired me to get involved with some of the best aquaculture practices in the world. But when I got there, I realized there just wasn’t a financial incentive for farms to do the best that was possible, to move pilot projects out of [the] concept of regenerative, integrated multi-trophic aquaculture and into commercial scale. That incentive structure and that distribution model needed to be created. So that’s kind of how it got started. And where we’re at now trying to break through those misconceptions and allow people to vote with their dollars.

What Proper Aquaculture Looks Like

Chris Kresser:  Great. Well, let’s talk a little about what aquaculture done right looks like, because I know I learned a lot from our initial conversation. I imagine some of the listeners will learn a lot from this as well. What [does] a typical aquaculture farm that you are working with look like? You mentioned it’d be a place you’d want to swim, it’s a place you’d want to visit, maybe similar to a ranch that’s raising pasture-raised cattle. Maybe just start with the general environment– where are these happening? What do they look like? What size are they? And then we can talk a little bit about the food, which of course then affects the fatty acid profile of the fish and things like that.

James Arthur Smith:  Absolutely. Yeah. So the cool thing is that some of these farms are just such beautiful places. It’s really easy to talk about, and I’d love to bring you there through some of the work we’re doing. We’ve brought chefs to these farms, and that was such a life changing experience for them– to go from the concept of where their seafood comes from to actually knowing it and having that same relationship that they have with their beef or their chicken or their tomatoes. Visiting a farm where you actually get to taste the feed [and] you actually can swim in the environment, [it’s] the three-dimensional experience. To paint a picture, there’s a lot of different types of farms, but two of the main ones are either land-based recirculating aquaculture systems, which, frankly, are not that beautiful because the whole thing happens on land in sort of an aquarium environment. But from an environmental standpoint, that’s cool because you’re controlling the entire thing from end to end. You’re recirculating all the water, there’s no impact on the local environment or the groundwater, you’re filtering the entire system, you control every factor. It’s kind of like what we get from hydroponic systems in agriculture. You can put them really close to cities, they can be grown vertically indoors in large buildings. But, in some of the same challenges that we have with hothouse tomatoes or other hydroponic systems, you’re not necessarily getting the terroir.

If you really want the terroir, or what we refer to in the ocean as merroir, you want the minerality of that water to be representative in those fish, in those shellfish, in that seafood. So when you go into ocean farming, you get the opportunity to use this beautiful resource that we have, which is the ocean. Done right, a farm has a very low density in the ratio of fish to water, so you want a lot of space. The best farms that we work with have a ratio generally of around 98 percent water and 2 percent fish, and that ratio is monitored and tracked. So as fish grow and they get bigger, there’s a process of moving the larger fish into a different site or a different net. So, open net pen farms that are in deep water, low density, in areas that have a lot of current. The siting of a location is super important. In a bay where there’s a lot of stagnant water, it’s very, very different and has a lot lower carrying capacity than an environment that has a lot of current, a lot of tidal fluctuation, a lot of open ocean longshore current, or an offshore deepwater canyon that has a natural sort of vacuum and flushing effect.

If you’ve ever been to the Monterey [Bay] Aquarium and you see the large tuna swimming around there, imagine swimming in that. When you swim inside of a huge open net pen farm, you have the opportunity [of] literally swimming amongst thousands of fish that [are] naturally schooling around and have enough room if they want to come in close and inspect, or go all the way to the bottom of a pen that could be 60 to 80 feet deep. There’s so much room that you won’t even see them, depending on the clarity of the water you have. These pens are so big, and in the best example on the best days, the water clarity is [such] that you’re just swimming in this magical place.

Then the very best farms are pairing multiple species. So you can have in that pen, let’s say salmon. In addition to salmon, you can have a cleaner fish like a lump sucker. Lump suckers in nature are cleaning any sort of parasites off of fish. Some people are concerned about sea lice, which all wild salmon have a concern with sea lice, but depending on the density, the opportunity for the sea lice to proliferate that entire school or cause disease to spread is very different than in a low density environment. Then you pair it with cleaner fish like wrasses or lump suckers and you have a natural balance of these organisms.

Then, outside of the pens, you have kelp and shellfish working symbiotically, [and] all of a sudden you have an ecosystem that works in concert with the fish. In nature, there’s no such thing as waste. Fish poop, if it’s full of antibiotics, is definitely not good for the environment. But if you have a clean feed, no antibiotics, no hormones, no GMOs, [then] what is fish poop? It is [a] super food for so many different organisms. Some of those organisms, like kelp and shellfish, are going to all of a sudden have a nutrient rich environment. So the interesting thing about the evolution of a relationship with the ocean and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture or polyculture, as opposed to a monoculture, is that you can now grow organisms like kelp and shellfish in low nutrient waters, very far offshore or [in] previous dead zones where there wasn’t enough nutrients to support life like shellfish and kelp. When you pair them with a predatory fish that’s pooping in the water, very similar to the way cattle distribute nutrients to the soil, you can reinvigorate these environments and create new habitats that not only are going to feed the kelp and shellfish, but they create habitat structure that increases biodiversity for the surrounding areas as well. And all of a sudden this sort of fish attracting device is showing increased levels of biodiversity for the entire ecosystem around there.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, that’s really fascinating. In some ways it reminds me a little bit of rotational grazing and what Joel Salatin and others are doing and have been advocating for some time, where instead of raising [only] cattle on the pasture, they’re rotating chickens and other ruminants and they’re getting benefits and synergy from having different animals cohabitate in the same area on land. So it sounds like that’s what some of the better aquaculture farmers are doing and saying.

James Arthur Smith:  If you look at the aquaculture industry, it hasn’t been around that long. The first commercial aquaculture farms got funded in the 70s and their funding came primarily from Big Ag, and the exact same business model was implemented. But we know that there’s challenges and externalities that are not being factored in monocultures. When we evolve from monoculture to polyculture, it introduces complexity that is intimidating and challenging to the existing structure. For example, if you’re using the same 100 acre concession to grow three different species instead of just one species, are you reducing your total production? And do you have to develop a value for those other species? Those are challenges that farms have. These are real challenges that have to be factored in. How do we place value on those other ecosystem services that the shellfish and kelp are providing? Is there a way to actually place value on the farm brand and the story that they’re doing something better, cleaner, [and] more nutritionally dense? Can you also derive some actual harvest value from the products that are derived from those other organisms?

But, yeah, it is very similar to what we’ve been seeing happen with the transition of monoculture crops to regenerative [agriculture] and rotational grazing. We have to be humble stewards of the ocean, and we can’t just approach it from the mindset that we’re going to farm it the same way that we farmed on land and get a different outcome. Industrial scale monoculture practices with only value placed on one end product have a negative impact on the environment and they are really just designed to benefit the shareholders and not necessarily the end consumer.

Appropriate Fish Feed

Chris Kresser: Yeah it’s fascinating. And it makes so much sense to me that [the] same principle of creating a similar ecosystem [to what] you would have in the wild is what you’d want to do– to create the best conditions for aquaculture, just as it is for regenerative farm[ing]. And along the same lines, I imagine that’s also true for what the fish are fed. Just like, in the case of ruminants, we know that ruminants pretty much eat grass and forage, and so you get the best results in terms of the quality of the food when that food intake from their natural environment is replicated. Of course, you can sometimes supplement that strategically.

So, how does that work with aquaculture? What’s the difference with these aquaculture 3.0 farms, if you will, [in] what they’re doing versus what some of those earlier aquaculture farms were doing? And how does that actually affect the nutritional quality of the fish?

James Arthur Smith:  It’s everything. Just like with those ruminant animals, you want them to have that varied, natural diet, not just being fed corn and soy. If we look at aquaculture, it’s a little bit different, though, because most of the fish that we crave are carnivores. So in nature, they’re going to be out there foraging around, eating let’s say sardines and anchovies. And the omega-3s that we love in salmon or tuna, for example, don’t actually get produced by the fish. They don’t get produced by the sardines and anchovies. They get produced by microalgae, and then it bioaccumulates into the fish. So [in] fish farming 1.0, we just took sardines and anchovies or any other sort of bait fish, and ground them up and fed them to the fish. And they got the omega-3s. They had pretty much the same thing. In some instances, you even saw elevated levels because they were in this controlled environment, being able to have a consistent amount of food throughout their lifecycle.

The challenge is that, to feed a growing demand for seafood, we can’t just keep catching wild bait fish. It’s not sustainable to increasingly produce more salmon through farms and be relying on the same source of bait fish. So there was a big push globally to reduce the impact of aquaculture from bait fish. And the savior was our industrialized food system, in corn and soy. The subsidized GMO corn and soy, for a lot of farms, was pretty inexpensive and [had] decent growth rates. The complication, however, is that you’re getting an increased level of omega-6s as opposed to omega-3s. It also causes inflammation in the fish, which increases their potential for infection, and when disease outbreaks, you have entire populations in these high-density farms that can collapse. So what a lot of these farms did was start using preventative antibiotics in the feed.

🌊 Dive into sustainable seafood with @ChrisKresser and James Arthur Smith on #RevolutionHealthRadio! 🐟 Discover how #Aquaculture3.0 is transforming oceans and bringing healthier, toxin-free fish to your plate. #Sustainability #HealthyEating

James Arthur Smith:  Where we’re at right now, [which] you highlighted as kind of 3.0, is a reconsideration of what the fish actually need. One of the things they really need is those omega-3s. So, righting that balance of omega-3s, instead of feeding them sardines and anchovies, instead of feeding them corn and soy. Our preferred foreign partners today are actually using microalgae directly to produce those oils and insect proteins to get that ratio of fats and proteins at various stages of their lifecycle. And that provides, in many cases, a level of omega-3s, particularly [eicosapentaenoic acid] (EPA) and [docosahexaenoic acid] (DHA), that are higher than you would find in commodity farms, and often even higher than you would find in wild-caught seafood, in a manner that is actually scalable.

So we can, through a controlled feed, get a predictable controlled outcome most of the time. We’re still working in nature, [we’re] still farming, and there’s always going to be challenges. The environment is continuing to change and things of that nature. But we are seeing elevated levels of EPA and DHA when fish are fed a diet of EPA-rich omega-3 oils from microalgae. And that is what the phytoplankton and zooplankton, where they originally got it from. Now we’re just in this process of trying to get enough of this industrial-grown EPA and DHA, and new innovative approaches to farming, fermenting, and extracting those oils and different feed stocks. Is it only going to be microalgaes? Or can we also use macroalgaes like seaweeds and kelps? This is the stage that we’re at today with the most innovative farms that are looking not just to produce commodity salmon, though there’ll probably always be a market for that just like there’s going to probably be a market for commodity chicken and beef. But the farms that are really trying to optimize for the best products, that have the most nutrient-dense food and [are] producing microalgae oils and insect proteins and other sort of alternative proteins, mycelium proteins, things of that nature, that are in alignment with the macronutrients that these organisms need for them to be healthy and for us to be healthy, is where we’re at today. So feed is critically important. What goes in. We are what our food eats, and it couldn’t be truer than with carnivorous animals. There are some exceptions to the rule. Not all farmed fish are carnivores. There’s a handful that are herbivores, and it’s a little bit easier with them. But specifically with carnivores, we are what they’re eating. And if you don’t want a bunch of omega-6s and seed oils, then we have to help farms justify the cost for this more expensive feed. And as far as I’m concerned, I would pay for it every day. I don’t want cornflakes in my salmon. I want [those] beautiful, rich, bioavailable omega-3s.

Toxin Accumulation

Chris Kresser:  Absolutely. What’s great about that, as you alluded to, and this is a good segue into the question of sustainability, is if you’re talking about doing this at scale, then insect protein and microalgae is probably much more scalable and sustainable than feeding the smaller fish that those larger fish might eat. Then there’s also the question of toxin accumulation as well, which is a big one. So let’s first talk about that, since that’s kind of, I think, related to feed and how the fish are raised. Then we can talk about sustainability and scalability, because another big concern, as you well know, that people have about eating seafood right now is that it’s not sustainable, that global fisheries are under a lot of pressure, and they wonder, “This sounds all good, but how sustainable is this?” Could it actually eventually make a dent in total seafood consumption?

James Arthur Smith:  Yeah, I look forward to sharing that. But let’s address toxin accumulation. So, just like the EPA and DHA is not actually produced by the fish, [but rather] is bioaccumulating through their diet, other things are also bioaccumulating and binding to those fatty acids. And those other things that I’m referring to are toxins that are in the environment, unfortunately, from [polychlorinated biphenyls] (PCBs) that were dumped in the ocean by industry. A huge article just came out in the [Los Angeles] Times this week about radioactive elements [like] mercury, which is up over 300 percent in the oceans, to microplastics, which have been quantified in more than 25 percent of seafood. The amount of pollutants that we as humans in industry have put into our lakes and rivers, that all go downstream and into the ocean, is unfortunately not out of sight, out of mind. It is percolating back up into our food system, and it is now quantifiably in the zooplankton and the phytoplankton and in the fish that we buy when we’re buying wild-caught seafood, or even farm-raised seafood that still, in many instances, continues to use bait fish or trimmings.

It’s quantifiable. You can see it in lab tests. We’ve seen this for years. Fortunately, you can avoid a lot of that stuff by using the microalgae feeds or the soldier fly proteins, because you’re stepping out of that trophic cycle. You’re going right to the base layer and producing it in a clean environment. Not to talk too much about what we’re doing with Seatopia, but as an example, we can quantify the presence of mercury in fish that are fed this sort of diet and it will be 10 times lower than a fish that was eating baitfish. And that’s simply a matter of whether or not the fish are bioaccumulating and that biomagnification that happens if there’s one part of mercury in a sardine and a mackerel eats a thousand sardines, and then a salmon comes along and eats a hundred mackerel. That salmon now has bioaccumulated all of that mercury. And the further up the food chain you go, whether it’s tuna or shark or whales, the biomagnification goes up considerably. We have, with the most innovative farms, now completely removed ourselves from that. We’re going straight to the microalgae, and as a result, there’s [such] lower levels of mercury that its magnitude is lower than the [United States Food and Drug Administration] (FDA) guidelines. It’s to the point where my wife, while pregnant, ate sushi grade seafood throughout her entire pregnancy, in her third trimester, without concerns of mercury. Or parasites, for that matter. But we could talk about that on a different subject.

It also goes for microplastics. We’re now testing seafood that is raised on this diet and showing zero detectable microplastics. If you compare that to what’s coming out of the UC Davis studies showing microplastics in 25 percent of seafood, it’s very, very different. And you’ve probably seen those studies that came out recently about the association between microplastics and coronary disease and heart attacks. It is in all of our food systems. Unless food is being produced in a clean, controlled environment, it is going to be susceptible to whatever is in the wild environment. It’s the same reason we don’t eat wild pigeons. But if you go to a Michelin star restaurant, you could probably get squab, and you’re going to eat it and be like, “Wow, that’s delicious.” But a wild pigeon growing outside is not going to be consumed because its exposure to whatever is in that environment is potentially going to cause it to be accumulating whatever [was] in the environment. So, yeah, controlled inputs, controlled outputs, for the most part is the name of the game. That’s why we farm. That’s why we have evolved from hunters and gatherers. Not that we evolved just to get away from toxins. But in order to have a predictable outcome, we’re trying our best to replicate these processes over and over again. Clean inputs, clean outputs, clean water, clean feed, clean fish.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, I mean, in a perfect world this wouldn’t be the case, right? We would be able to source food from the wild environment and it would not be laden with toxins. But unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in anymore, as all of the recent research that I’ve been sharing in my newsletter and those studies that you just mentioned [shows]. Whether we’re talking about phthalates or [bisphenol A] or microplastics or glyphosate or so many other organic and inorganic toxins, [they] have now infiltrated the food supply to the point where you really can’t avoid them. You’re getting some exposure one way or [another]. The only thing we can do at this point is to minimize our exposure and also eat as nutrient-dense [of] a diet as possible, because those nutrients improve detoxification and help us to combat the exposure to these toxins.

James Arthur Smith:  Exactly. And those macronutrients are also coevolved, for the most part. Whether it’s selenium or whatnot, there are really cool partnerships that we’ve seen in seafood. It’s not to say that there’s no such thing as a benefit from eating wild seafood, but the data is making it harder and harder to make those justifications.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah. And a good example, I mean, you just mentioned selenium. 16 of the 25 highest sources of selenium are ocean fish. Typically selenium is one of those nutrients that helps with detoxification tremendously. So we’re not saying, obviously, don’t eat fish. But make sure that you’re maximizing the intake of beneficial nutrients and minimizing the intake of toxins.

Sustainability and The Future of Aquaculture

Chris Kresser: So let’s talk about what this could look like in 10, 20, maybe 50 years. There’s been a lot of dire articles in the media over the past decade with titles like “The End of Fish,” to the point where if you have a kid, or maybe you’re at the point where you’re having grandkids now, you’re wondering if they’re going to be eating seafood when they’re your age, given the state of global fisheries. So, speak to the sustainability and scalability of the methods that you’re talking about now. Is this something that will always be boutique and specialized? Or is there a potential for real scale here?

James Arthur Smith:  Well, I think it’s important to first acknowledge that there is a finite resource of wild-caught seafood, and that global gross production [has] plateaued and not increased since 2002. So we’re not going to find a new source of wild-caught seafood. Some[one] I was talking to in the industry was like, “Wild-caught seafood is over. It’s done, the industry.” Obviously, it’s not. There’s still a lot of oil in the ground and we’re going to continue to mine it. There’s just too much value in it. Personally, as a business and as a business owner, I just don’t want to partake in that. I think there’s enough demand already on wild-caught seafood. I think what is lacking at the moment is education around better solutions, right? What are the best solutions that are actually scalable? What is the future state going to look like? And absolutely, [it’s] very scalable. The difference is [that] it takes time to learn how to work with nature. Doing integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, the complexity, you don’t just go in there and own nature. But with the traditional model of monoculture, we’re going to just farm the land and the ocean the same way we’ve done, with our Cargill experience, whatever it is. The nuance is [that], if we mimic nature and look at how nature has created abundant ecosystems, and we model that, we can actually move into areas that we didn’t previously farm or cultivate. The opportunity to move seafood production into integrated multi-trophic aquaculture offshore opens up vast opportunities to produce immensely scalable ecosystems and farming practices that could absolutely see global production and global demand.

I mean, the estimate was [that] it would take less than 5 percent of coastline to produce more protein than the world needs. That is just coastline. But 70 percent of the planet is covered by water. If you go offshore, we have so much more area. This is a three-dimensional farming methodology. It’s very different [from] on land. I don’t currently work with any integrated multi-trophic aquaculture farms in the United States, because there [are] none. There are none. We have not allowed aquaculture farming of finfish to be permitted, or multi-trophic farming to be permitted in the United States. The most innovative farms that I work with are in other countries, whether that’s Mexico or Peru or in Europe. The state of our evolution and the relationship to seafood in America is still evolving, because we still have some wild-caught seafood. There’s a couple of examples of seafood production in the Northeast, or everywhere there was a huge industry, whether it was herring or cod, where it was thought to be infinitely scalable or [an] infinite source of food. In all of those examples, they eventually collapsed. Entire industries collapsed. We still have some wild-caught seafood in Alaska and a couple other places that we’re harvesting, and we think that we can continue to sustain those. But in Mexico and a couple other places, they unfortunately already overfished to the point where entire communities, cities, and industries collapsed, and the government was forced to invest in aquaculture as the only way to produce a scalable, sustainable economy for those communities. So in some ways, by overfishing, they sort of advanced technology and social adoption. Whereas in the [United States], we see thus far [that] we’ve only permitted onshore, land-based, recirculating aquaculture systems. Offshore, multi-trophic aquaculture systems, outside of Hawaii, actually, is the only exception, have not yet been permitted.

So it is scalable, it’s just a matter of time and energy to have an adoption of these practices in the United States. In the interim, there’s communities that are at the forefront of this that are reaping the benefits. But yeah, it’s a journey. I do believe, though, that if we look at the ocean, the planet, the blue planet that’s covered by water, all of our history came from the ocean. If we can just respectfully endeavor to replicate, or even more specifically not even replicate, just to catalyze the ecosystem services to support abundant ecosystems in a way that we can harvest from those through integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems that promote biodiversity, we will absolutely have a scalable food system, and seafood can provide an abundant source of protein for this planet. It’s just a matter of will and timing, I guess. I’m optimistic.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, I mean, I am too. And we have to be. It’s either that or just give up, which doesn’t seem like a good option.

James Arthur Smith:  Yeah, I like this plan. Serves better on this planet than on Mars.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, it’s one we’ve got. I’m not going to Mars. The same is true with regenerative agriculture. You get the same questions about scalability and sustainability, and I think [the] answer is very similar. It’s a paradigm shift, and those don’t happen overnight. [It’s] more like turning an ocean tanker around than a speedboat. You have massive systems in place that need to change, and you [also] have vested interests that don’t necessarily want those changes. So yeah, I think it’s amazing work that you guys are doing. Tell people where they can learn a little bit more about Seatopia and order and try some of your fish, which I have tried and it’s unbelievable. It’s some of the best fish I’ve ever eaten. And you can see the quality in the color of the fish and just the texture and the taste. It’s pretty remarkable. So yeah, why don’t you tell people how they can find out more about Seatopia?

James Arthur Smith:  Thank you, Chris. I think it’s worth noting that the flavor and the texture and the color is so different [from] what we traditionally get. In order to do this right, we have to cut out a bunch of middlemen. And in order to really benefit the farms, we have to cut out those middlemen. An ancillary benefit of that is the quality of the product that you’re getting– it’s a much shorter supply chain and it’s just a better experience. The handling of fish is very different [from] the handling of meat from cattle, for example. There’s more water content in fish. And if you’re talking [about] sushi-grade fish, you have to be super careful with the ice crystals that form inside of that fish. Every time that fish fluctuates in temperature, it has an effect on the texture and the flavor of that fish. So the shorter the supply chain, the fewer changes in temperature. You definitely don’t want your fish being frozen and refrozen more than once because that’s how you get fishy fish. So the bottom line is Seatopia.fish is the URL. People can go there and choose if they want to stick with the basic salmon box, which has a variety of different types of salmon and salmonids like steelhead trout and arctic char, depending on the season. Some of these farms are kind of small, not year-round harvest. It’s sort of slow food in that way. It’s not everything all the time. There’s a variety box that has fish and shellfish, and then there’s an all whitefish box. [There’s also] sushi grade options that you can just slice and eat with a little bit of yuzu kosho. Anyways, Seatopia.fish is where people can order and they can learn about all the specific farms. There’s QR codes on every single product to see photos and videos of the specific farm [and] where it’s at on the map and who the farmers are and what’s in the feed and what specific farming practices [are being used]. And you can download the certificate of analysis quantifying the parts per billion of mercury and microplastics for every product we sell.

Chris Kresser:  Amazing. Thank you, James.

James Arthur Smith:  Be part of the solution. Vote with your fork three times a day.

Chris Kresser:  Absolutely. Well, thanks again for coming on the show and thanks for the phenomenal work you’re doing in this area. And all the listeners, thank you for listening. Keep sending your questions to ChrisKresser.com/podcastquestion, and we’ll see you next time.