Like minded alumni, Yanik Nyberg and Nick Shell, who discovered their love for ecology at UNIS Hanoi, will be showcasing their innovation to the entire world at COP26 this week.
In time for COP26, the duo have developed The Govan Graving Docks in Glasgow - a prime example of the wetland eco-parks they are passionate about creating.
The Govan Graving Docks is one of Glasgow’s well-known historical sites and its transformation into a wetland eco-park is the brainchild of Seawater Solutions (founded by Yanik) in partnership with Glasgow City Council and GE Current. The project aims to showcase Scotland’s leading climate technology, from nature-based solutions to renewable energy.
A Meeting of Minds
Seawater Solutions was founded in 2018 by Yanik Nyberg (Class of 2013) in his final year of a Master's degree in Environmental Engineering and Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde.
With Seawater Solutions, Yanik aims to turn degraded and coastal land into productive and environmentally farming land without using freshwater.
In 2018, Nick Shell (Class of 2012), a marine biologist and sustainable aquaculture specialist, was in Vietnam managing an intensive shrimp farm in the South of the country. Interested in what Yanik was doing, Nick reached out wanting to try growing salicornia vegetables in Vietnam. “My shrimp farm waste seawater could be a perfect natural fertilizer for these plants,” Nick said. “Salicornia is a new kind of food. It’s not only nutritious with minerals and vitamins, but also high in antioxidants which can be used in beauty products. Thus, its market price is fairly high. This is a practical solution for farmers to their big climate change problem: rising sea-levels, especially for countries as vulnerable to this issue as Vietnam.”
That’s how Yanik and Nick’s paths crossed again, in the wetland fields. Nick joined Seawater Solutions as Chief Technical Officer in January 2020 and the two of them have worked together restoring and creating wetland ecosystems across the world’s coastlines.
The two alumni share: “UNIS Hanoi brought us environmental stewardship and sustainable development early on.” Nick remembers advocating for deforestation when he joined the School in Grade 5. And Yanik’s favourite memory is the Model United Nations’ debates about global economic impact on sustainable development. “So naturally, sustainability and climate action become what you want to do later in life,” Nick confessed.
Their projects require them to travel often and work between three continents - Europe, Africa and Asia. Nick shares: “Be open-minded is what we learnt at UNIS Hanoi and it makes a lot of sense when we need to work with people from different cultures, backgrounds, political and economical systems.”
Seawater Solutions has grown to a team of 14 people creating wetland ecosystems in seven countries including Vietnam. They are partnering with farmers in Southern Vietnam growing salicornia and they hope to expand the production to soon meet the demand from high-end restaurants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
“Our vision is to create artificial wetland ecosystems that protect us from storms and rising sea-levels, while promoting habitat creation for wildlife. We see wetland creation as a silver bullet to tackle climate related threats, one that can address food insecurity at the same time.” Yanik commented.
Visit seawatersolutions.org to learn more about their Govan Wetlands Project for COP26 conference and where you may meet Yanik and Nick in the future.