Pilot Project to Stimulate Seaweed Production on Mussel Farms in Maine

January 19th, 2012
Seaweed is a $6 billion industry worldwide. Different types of seaweed are harvested for a variety of uses including fertilizer, food ingredients, and nutritional supplements.

With more people looking to grow seaweed, otherwise known as kelp, marine microalgae or sea vegetable, as a business or for supplemental income, the University of Maine-based Maine Sea Grant is teaming up with Maine shellfish farmers to build expertise in growing kelp.

Marine Extension Team members Dana Morse and Sarah Redmond are working with industry partners to construct a demonstration hatchery at the UMaine Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin, Maine. The project is being funded by a $19,999 grant from the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center.

The industry partners are Pemaquid Mussel Farms (Carter Newell, Peter Fischer, Joe Larrabee, Tim Levesque), Evan Young of Blue Hill Bay Mussels, Matt Moretti of Wild Ocean Aquaculture, and Ocean Approved, the nation’s first commercial kelp producer.

The project is a leading Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) effort in the U.S. to produce kelp on commercial mussel farms. IMTA, an alternative approach to standard mono-culture aquaculture, is believed to reduce the environmental impacts of commercial aquaculture systems.

The kelp species being grown is the sugar kelp (Latissima saccharina). This species was chosen because of the existing know-how in producing seedlings, and the established market, both from Ocean Approved and wild harvesters. Sugar kelp is native to Maine, grows quickly, and can be delivered into a growing market. Through photosynthesis and growth, seaweeds remove carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

The pilot project aims to build expertise in kelp farming among shellfish farmers; improve communications between kelp producers and buyers, and improve profitability for both sectors; gather observations on environmental factors and growth to improve site selection and production methods; and continue technology transfer on kelp production to other potential shellfish or seaweed farmers.

The project is also an opportunity to evaluate the profitability of growing kelp. Seaweed aquaculture holds promise as a potential option for fishermen who are looking to diversify their income, and a way to keep working waterfronts active. As a winter crop, sugar kelp might be a product lobstermen could grow in the offseason. It would use much of the same expertise and equipment, and the crop is ready in April-June, at the point when many lobstermen are feeling the financial pinch.

Project partners began deploying seeded lines in November 2011 in Casco Bay, between the mussel rafts of Wild Ocean Aquaculture. The project has expanded to other sites to evaluate kelp growth in Blue Hill Bay, Lamoine, Belfast and Walpole, with sites in Stonington to come next.

The Marine Extension Team is a collaboration between Maine Sea Grant and UMaine Cooperative Extension. The team’s goal is to provide coastal communities and other stakeholders with scientific information and assistance while ensuring that researchers are aware of the most pressing issues facing the state.

Provided by University of Maine

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...