Branford man is taking his farm underwater

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BRANFORD--Have you ever heard of 3D ocean farming? No? It may be providing you with some of the trendiest menu items on the market.

Bren Smith started Thimble Island Ocean Farm--yes, it's a farm in the water!

Smith has about 20 acres of farm about 1/2 mile off shore, and several feet down. But he uses that space very wisely utilizing a technique called vertical farming.

Basically, Smith raises oysters, clams, mussels, scallops...and kelp--a guaranteed catch at a time when the Long Island Sound is hurting for native seafood. He can grow between 10 and 30 tons of kelp per acre of farm, and the seaweed is becoming a popular menu item, with some top chefs creating pasta-like dishes using the slimy treat.

Utilizing buoys and anchors, the farm is suspended and vertical--and it's very cheap to build.

"The horizontal line, and then we grow our kelp, vertically down our scallops, our mussels, and then below that we have our oyster cages, and then we have clams buried down in the mud," Smith explained. "Another benefit of vertical farming is that you can actually raise and lower your crops and that's important if a storm is on the horizon."

Now, he's insulated from storms like Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, which took out about 90 percent of his crop each of those years.

According to Smith, eight vertical farms are starting around the state, and he's training people to take the "Greenwave" concept global.