Genome Alberta

Livestock Blog

A companion site to Genome Alberta's
Bovine Genome Sequencing Project
December 28, 2012 12:00 PM

Farmer to Biohackers: Want to Team Up?”

Filed Under: Pam Baker

In a bid for a new and better way to farm, one farmer thinks teaming with biohackers just may be the perfect route to true innovation.

Phil Cruver, president and CEO of KZO Sea Farms, a social entrepreneur, founder of four start-up companies, and CEO of two public companies previously, is openly and loudly broadcasting his invite to biohackers to help him innovate forward.  

“We are interested in connecting with biohackers who would share our vision for creating bio-engineered shellfish for feeding the future in a Brave New World,” he told me.   

Granted Cruver is an aquafarmer, not a livestock farmer, but innovation via biohacking applies equally to all forms of farming and therefore it is likely that livestock farmers are dabbling in it too or soon will be.  

It’s an interesting concept this old school meets new school approach to one of mankind’s oldest professions.

Biohacking is as cutting edge as it gets. Consider it the blade horizon, so to speak, where the old way of doing things get sliced and diced while new ways are julienned into existence. Disruption seems too bland a word for the upheaval biohacking is bringing to even the most traditional and mature endeavors.

For a better understanding of how biohackers are hacking DNA (hence the term “biohacking”), watch the video, “Hacking DNA: Compiling code for living systems” from a biohacking camp held last year called CCCamp 2011 ….

…and watch the video on field hacking: “Cathal Garvey demonstrating Do-it-Yourself DNA extraction in a tent from smarimc on Vimeo.....

Cruver, excited over the recent sequencing of the Pacific oyster genome, is looking to biohacking as a means to speed the development of sterile super shellfish. There has been some promising work in this regard but mostly in venues with traditional drawbacks, namely high costs and innovation-stifling regulatory compliance requirements.  Biohackers, by comparison, have few drawbacks and are incredibly quick at creating far cheaper and faster ways of doing just about anything.

Cruver, while proudly seeking organic status for his first offshore shellfish farm in federal waters, is open to suggestions from biohackers on how to improve shellfish farming further in a completely green, socially responsible, and profitable way.

At the moment, sterile super shellfish are the preferred aqua-farming choice. They are triploids meaning they have three sets of chromosomes whereas nature’s diploids have just two sets of chromosomes. Triploids do not grow gonads and therefore grow faster and bigger and are edible all year. By contrast diploids produce sperm and eggs in the summer months making them poor eating, either from the less than tasty gonads or the watery after-spawning spoils.

Farming triploids means more meat per shellfish and protein availability all year with which to feed the world’s population. But Cruver asks “what else can we do?” It is a question all farmers everywhere are asking. It will be interesting to see how biohackers answer that.

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