Aquaculture

Seaweed common names: Nori

There are many names for commonly consumed seaweeds. However, the species they refer to vary by region and culture. We will cover some of the most commonly used names for seaweeds, and review the differences between connotation and denotation. This series will review some of the most common common-names in use.


Nori

Nori is the most recognizable edible seaweed in the world. Almost everyone has eaten, or at least seen, sushi rolled in nori paper. Nori mostly refers to the genus Pyropia even though the literal translation is seaweed.

Nori is the word for the Japanese characters 海苔 or . While both characters are pronounced as nori, the translations are slightly different. The first set 海苔 translates in English as seaweed or laver (laver will be reviewed in a separate post soon), while translates to paste or glue.

Historically nori was used to describe all edible seaweeds, which were traditionally ground into a paste as early as the 8th century. It wasn’t until the 1700s that Japanese began making nori into thin sheets. These sheets were made using similar techniques as traditional paper making during the Edo period. The sugars within nori act as a glue, as translated, and will adhere to itself when ground and dried.

The sheets of nori we see today are typically from the genus Pyropia. How and when this term for seaweeds became genus specific is unclear, but at some point Edo fishermen realized when they used bamboo stakes to hold their nets Pyropia would grow on them. Fishermen began to add extra stakes to grow more Pyropia and this began the Pyropia cultivation in Japan.

offshore vs. land-based seaweed farms, and why we went land.

Monterey Bay Seaweeds was the first land-based seaweed farm in California, possibly the entire United States, but why did we chose a land-based operation for growing seaweed?

As many of our readers will know, Dr. Graham is a tenured professor at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. The lab has it’s own seawater intake system that it also shares with their neighbor, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). By entering an equity partnership with the marine lab and San Jose State University, Monterey Bay Seaweeds was able to utilize the existing infrastructure for their aquaria and get to work.

Offshore and land-based seaweed farms differ almost in parallel to large agriculture farms and greenhouses. Offshore seaweed farms are less space limited, and are capable of producing vast quantities. Typically kelps, or other common species, are seeded on long lines and hung in the ocean until the harvest season. Once harvested, the product is typically dried and stored until sale. The seaweed is typically bought in bulk for various uses. Due to seasonal variability, offshore farms are difficult to operate year round. Nutrient availability or fluctuating temperatures can also hinder production. A few bad seasons and your farm might go under.

On the other hand, land-based seaweed farms don’t mass produce due to the high price of space. They can however, produce year round. Land-based farms can also grow species that are harder or impossible to grow on lines. Just like a common greenhouse, everything can be controlled. If the seawater intake starts pulling in water that is nutrient poor or too hot/ cold, the entire system could be switched to artificial seawater. It’s this control that would be critical if climate change continues at the current rate. If the oceans become more acidic or too hot, land-based aquaculture might be the only option.

The added benefit to producing year round, is that the product can be harvested at any time. We can sell our seaweed fresh, any day. Fresh seaweeds give the chefs more options on how to use the product. They can more freely play with the taste, texture, and shape when constructing a dish. If they desire, they can always dry seaweed, but when you re-hydrate it, it’s never the same as it was.

Closing the nutrient loop with seaweed farming.

As discussed in the last post, agriculture runoff is a huge problem. Nutrients are running off the land and into our oceans.Today in a recent article from Scientific America, the idea was batted around to take up ocean nutrients with kelp then turn it into fertilizers. These fertilizers could then be used again on land to replenish the nutrients lost. Not only would this help close the nutrient loop, but also take excess carbon out of the oceans.

This is just another example how seaweeds can help reverse negative anthropogenic impacts to our oceans.

India approves 1 billion USD in aquaculture infrastructure development

India has joined the growing list of countries that are supporting the growth of the aquaculture industry. It was announced today that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved an amount of Rs7,522cr (roughly 1 billion USD) towards the creation of special fisheries and aquaculture infrastructure development fund (FIDF).

These funds can be allocated as loans to the aquaculture industry that have a maximum repayment period of 12 years, and will aid in achieving India’s goal of 15 million tons of aquaculture production by 2020.

Seaweed and cow gas

Cows have gotten a lot of attention lately as they were found to be one of the largest producers of methane in the USA. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more powerful than CO2 in it’s ability to heat the atmosphere, and the entire population of cows contributes just as much as cars to climate change. Cows digest their food by fermentation in their gut. Fermentation leads to gasses, which are then mostly belched out of the cow’s mouth.

This has lead many animal nutritionists to investigate alternative feed ingredients that could mitigate the amount of methane produced by cows. Researchers from the University of California, Davis, found that methane emissions were reduced by 24 to 58 percent in cows that ate a type of red seaweed.

While this tech is very promising, the bottleneck is currently the lack of red algae production. Land based aquaculture is costly, while offshore aquaculture comes with more regulatory hurdles. To have seaweed integrated into feeds, massive large scale aquafarming needs to become a reality.

It's national seafood month. Let's not forget seaweed.

It’s national seafood month!

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When most people think of seafood the mental image of fish, lobster, and crab jump into their heads.

While fish are the number one ranking seafood by tons/year, this mental image is missing the second largest seafood market on the planet: seaweed. Did you know that global seaweed cultivation is more than twice the amount of crustaceans farmed and captured by weight? (FAO 2016). Over 31 million tons of seaweed is produced annually. Red seaweeds make up most of the global production (18.4 million tons), followed by brown seaweeds (10.5 million tons), and the rest is green seaweeds.

Red seaweeds are cultivated at the highest rates due to some industrial extracts (see carrageenan post) and valued flavor. We are all familiar with the taste of some red algae; nori is a commonly used red seaweed in the making of sushi rolls.

So next time you hear the word seafood, don’t forget the second largest seafood group: seaweeds.

The Russians are investing in aquaculture while the USA is standing by

In the last few years the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations have been showing global reports that aquaculture is on the rise. For the last decade the aquaculture industry has grown at a pace of 8% annually and has huge potential for future gains. The FAO report on global aquaculture lists the largest seaweed producers as China, Indonesia, Philippines, Korea, and Japan. The United States didn’t even make it to the top 15 producers (neither did Russia). While the top countries haven’t seen big production gains in the last decade the market is still growing leaving plenty of room for other countries to grow.

Today an article caught my attention in Seafood-Source “investments in Russian aquaculture on the rise”. The article speaks of the Russian government supporting the industry with the goal of tripling aquaculture output to 700,000 metric tons by 2030. While the output figure includes fish and other aquaculture species, they also plan on expanding seaweed production. Clearly the Russians are trying to establish themselves in this expanding market.

Why is the USA not joining the race? With an expansive coastline and nutrient rich waters, the USA is positioned to make a real contribution to global seaweed production. Many point the finger at government, citing that it can take over 10 years to attain a permit, if it’s ever approved. With such long lag times and uncertainty, attaining investments can also be challenging.

It’s clear more and more countries are willing to invest in the aquaculture/ seaweed industry. What is unclear is, if and when, the USA is willing to invest.

How will we feed 9.6 billion people in 2050? The solution is within the ocean

The population is estimated to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. The FAO has reported that mankind will need to produce 70% more food than it did in 2009. Agriculture has had over a hundred years of industrialization to surpass global food supply expectations. Yet, we have become a population dependent on GMO mono-crop culture. With agriculture already at it’s maximum efficiency, where will the extra 70% of food come from?

While the land has had tremendous science and technologies invested in crop cultivation, we are still essentially hunting in the oceans. The oceans make up 70% of the earth surface and we have yet to realize it’s full potential in attaining food security.

Here is a recent article in Quartz about the future of ocean farming