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Ola Farms: Growing a Healthier Ocean, One ‘Plant’ at a Time

Written by: Frank Buncom IV, lead of Ola Farms and S&S Friendly Ranch

Creating a Multi-Trophic Bioremediation Treatment Plant

Your dear friend is sick.

Your every instinct and technology tells you they have an ailment. And frankly, they look ill. What will you do?

You help your friend however you can, even if you truly don’t feel like it.

And that’s the TLDR of how I came to found an ocean restoration company—to heal my dear friend one ecosystem at a time.

Our ocean friend is sick. Ola Farms is turbocharging the healing process.

The Great Big Blue

The ocean is vast. That fact can be both inspiring and freezing.

Trash accumulation in oceanic gyres. Acidification. Warming temperatures. Overfishing. Hypoxic dead zones. The list of nasty-causing phenomena abounds.

While these problems are grand, so is the ocean, her beauty, and her impact on the lives of us terrestrial beings. For example, NOAA estimates that roughly half of Earth’s oxygen production comes from plankton in the ocean.

So where to start when hoping to help an ill friend?

We began our mission in San Diego, where beautiful beaches coexist with polluted waters. My home, close to the Tijuana River Valley with its significant pollution issues, became the focus.

This aligned perfectly with my personal mission to nurture Earth’s soul by tending local land and effecting scaled ecological regeneration. Further, it compliments my land-based work at my family’s ranch, where I lead a nonprofit that demonstrates the power of reciprocity with a living planet by bringing land and hands together.

The Origin

I had been following an organization called Greenwave for some time and signed up for their online community hub. In this network of regenerative ocean farmers, I met smart, passionate Homo Sapiens in southern California eager to collaborate.

With the help of these kind souls and the encouragement of friends, including a nudge from the local rivers, Ola Farms was born.

Ola Farms is an ocean restoration company that regeneratively grows seaweed+shellfish and fosters a community committed to ocean conservation.

We envision a clean ocean—waters teaming with biodiversity and free of noxious pollutants.

Our goal is to develop and implement a multi-trophic bioremediation treatment plant.

We conspire with various seaweed and shellfish species to remove and process pollutants like copper, microplastics, arsenic, and other harmful elements from local waterways. This innovative solution harnesses the natural capabilities of these organisms, promoting a symbiotic relationship with the environment.

Our initial work begins in San Diego Bay at the Grape St. Pier, previously farmed by Sunken Seaweed, a pioneering regenerative ocean farm. We are grateful to stand on the shoulders of these environmental champions.

Farming for Restoration

Contrary to most aquaculture, we don’t focus on producing food for human or animal consumption {initially}. The industry seeks to grow in clean waters, yet we cultivate in polluted waters to remediate them, working in mutualism with nature.

This begs the question: what shall we do with the contaminated biomass? We could ship it off to the nearest landfill, but that’s no fun. Moreover, it contains valuable nutrients ripe for reclamation.

We are investigating novel extraction techniques with research partners to push the boundaries of modern-day capabilities, unlocking value while cleaning our waterways.

Thankfully, the Port of San Diego has been an avid supporter of our journey, and we work closely with them to find and permit hotspots where our nature-based treatment plants can thrive.

Loving Our Oceans

We do this work with love in our hearts. Fighting climate change, ocean acidification, and biodiversity loss is cool, but I’d rather center my heart on loving Mother and let the cards fall where they may.

Special thanks go out to Charli Seyler, Nam Nguyen, Terry Ellison, and Danielle Buard for taking that first step with me on this uncharted adventure.

If you’d like to get involved with ocean restoration, please reach out to us at and check out the awesome work at Ocean Connectors.

Thank you!

P.S. Our team is doing a Kayak Cleanup with Ocean Connectors in April! You should too 🙂

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