from consuming bugs to city agriculture


With cellular farming still in its infancy, urban farming is coming to the fore as cities’ populations are expected to explode. While vertical cultivation of crops in limited space has been around for some time, new research on “vertical cultivation of seafood” is being developed by CJBS affiliate and Harding Scholar, Broderick House.

As part of his PhD project at Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, House is studying the farming of bivalves – particularly mussels, oysters and clams – within the city limits. “In terms of sustainable food options and from a food security standpoint, the ability to expand mussel farming off the coast and into the cities means you have a secure environment to produce a highly nutritious and micronutrient-rich food source,” he said. “As acidification and microplastics increase in our oceans, and more and more flooding flushes more heavy metals and waste into the seas, this is an opportunity for the mussel industry to proactively realize a promising solution for global food security and alleviating micronutrient deficiencies.”

One of the biggest challenges is of course water consumption. The artificial aquaculture environment cannot be fully compared with marine farming, but by adopting advanced recirculation aquaculture systems, water consumption can be reduced as only 10% of the water in the tank needs to be changed every day: “If you compare it to traditional livestock farming – Cows, pork, chicken, or even other forms of protein like soy grown in fields, it uses a lot less water and provides competitive levels of protein,” House said.

While sustainability on the face of it would need to be offset by building infrastructure for mussel farming inland, there is an opportunity to repurpose existing buildings, which would help reduce carbon emissions from transport. House points out that the biggest carbon footprint in aquaculture is animal feed, and he’s working with the Algal Innovation Center in Cambridge to try to develop more sustainable options like photosynthetic algae.

To translate his research into the business world, House was supported by the CJBS Entrepreneurship Center’s EnterpriseTECH and EnterpriseTECH STAR programs. “CJBS has been a fantastic resource and community,” he said. “The business ecosystem here has provided important tools to engage with industry leaders and MPs in a constructive and informed manner to ensure my PhD plays a positive role in shaping the future of global food security.”