Aquaculture

"I want kelp on every table in America"

Sarah Redmond, founder of Springtide Seaweed, has a clear vision for the future of seaweed cultivation. Springtide is perusing an additional 20 acre site to accompany their 35 acre site off Stave Island Maine. Redmond claims there is plenty of room for growth when it comes to seaweed cultivation and that it can be done sustainably without competing with other marine activities.

Springtide Seaweed’s products are powders that can be used as culinary seasonings and salt substitutes. Redmond said, “I want kelp on every table in America,” she said. “It is nature’s true healthy salt.”

Read the full article here from BDN Hancock

Kelp farming is therapeutic, introducing the Salt Sisters group

Today we discovered the Salt Sisters, a campaign to help women in recovery connect with themselves and their inner strength through a connection with nature.

Founded by Colleen Francke, the Salt Sisters use kelp farming as a way to recovery and support.

“This project isn’t just about growing kelp, helping the environment, or diversifying out of a troubled industry,” says Francke. “I want to show others, and largely women like myself, who may think that they have nothing or no way out of where they are, that in fact they have every opportunity in the world.”

We can’t support this enough! We salute you, Salt Sisters! Keep up the good work.

Read the full article here from National Fisherman

New report: "Development of Offshore Seaweed Cultivation: food safety, cultivation, ecology and economy"

Offshore of northern Europe, a seaweed farm known as NSF (North Sea Farm). NSF was established in 2014 and is committed to developing a strong and healthy seaweed supply chain, in and from the Netherlands. This farm has been studied in a number of ways to assess ecological and economical impacts.

A recent report was just released evaluating economics, food safety, and ecological impacts of offshore seaweed farming.

Studies like these are extremely valuable to validate ecosystem services provided by seaweed farming, and should be conducted in numerous locations around the USA to be ecosystem specific.

General conclusions from the report below

  • high variability in chemical and contaminant composition of kelps, with only one month between sampling moments, was observed. This demonstrates the potential to harvest at the right moment, to provide the processing industry with desired products. However, it simultaneously shows the challenge to provide products with stable biochemical composition.

  • economic analysis indicates that relatively low-value markets such as the alginates are within reach for seaweed production in the North Sea, though for the near future a mix of medium- and low-value markets needs to be targeted

  • seaweed cultivation can have significant effect on the surrounding ecosystem, including biodiversity enhancement. But site specific information is required for the North Sea to evaluate how this activity relates to for example requirements by marine framework directives, and if farm management can further stimulate the ecosystem services provided by seaweed cultivation (through timing of harvest and/or technical adaptations to become more nature inclusive).

North America's first-ever seaweed-focused restaurant week

Most people know seaweed is a sustainable, nutritious, and versatile food source, but the majority of the public doesn’t know what to do with it in the kitchen.

Josh Rogers, owner of Heritage Seaweed in Portland ME, was well aware of this disconnect and conceived the idea of Seaweed Week as a way to bring the public’s attention to seaweed.

Seaweed Week, is being organized for April 26 through May 4 in Portland to spotlight businesses across greater Portland that champion sea vegetables and challenge others to start innovating with them. It will feature sea greens on menus at eateries, bars, breweries and distilleries.

Visit www.seaweedweek.org for more information.

Seaweed Farmers in Japan are Creating new Varieties to Deal with Climate Change.

Undaria pinnatifida  (wakame) is a seaweed extensively cultivated, and is one of the most valuable edible seaweeds in Japan, Korea, and China. The cultivation season usually starts from autumn and runs through to spring, where the seaweed is grown on long lines suspended in the ocean.

However, the cultivation period has been delayed due to rising temperatures caused by global climate change. This prompted many germlings (juvenile sporophytes) of U. pinnatifida to fall from the strings during nursery cultivation. In response, seaweed farmers are creating new verities of seaweed, similarly to how a traditional land based farmer would cross pollinate varieties of fruits and vegetables. (For more information on the process read this article)

In a recent paper, researches crossed two varieties of U. pinnatifida to create a heat tolerant variety called NW-1. They then grew NW-1 along side with the standard variety HGU-1. The result was more juveniles remained attached to the long line and had more growth/ individual.

As oceans continue to heat, seaweed breading programs could help seaweed biomass and biodiversity loss due to climate change.

The Nature Conservancy is Changing its Tune to Seaweed Aquaculture

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the worlds largest conservation NGOs, is changing how it sees aquaculture. For many years the organization has sounded alarms about the dangerous impacts of aquaculture to the environment, but recently has been involved in a number of aquaculture partnerships.

TNC has realized the important role of ecosystem services that some aquaculture can provide, specifically seaweed and shellfish. For example, they found that changing from fishing to seaweed farming, not only takes carbon and nitrogen out of the water, but also promoted more fish and lobsters in the surrounding water. TNC has released a promotional video of a seaweed farming success story (posted below).

“This is kind of a paradigm shift in how we’re trying to understand aquaculture, at least in the conservation world,” said Robert Jones, global lead for aquaculture at TNC. “We’re trying to turn this on its head.”

This is a big step in moving the conversation from aquaculture being dangerous to aquaculture being environmentally friendly.

Read a detailed article here from the Global Aquaculture Advocate

Read an article here from TNC “Sustainable Aquaculture: A viable economic alternative to fishing”

The shellfish industry needs a kelping hand in fighting ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is a daunting problem for shellfish farmers. It turns out that when the water becomes more acidic, the organisms aren’t so good at building their shells or reproducing. Oyster farms off the coast of Washington have already started to see the detrimental effects of increasing acidity.

In response, Paul G. Allen awarded $1.5 million to the Puget Sound Restoration Fund to investigate how kelp could help. Kelp and other seaweeds are able to take up CO2 out of the water, and therefore would make a micro climate of less acidic water. The research being led by Dr. Jonathan Davis , is specifically aimed at how kelps could be used around shellfish farms to create a acid buffer.

Davis is so optimistic, he has already began researching how the seaweed can be used as an additional commercial product for shellfish farmers. He is actively exploring kelp uses from food to fuel.

This multi-culture approach is really good idea. First off, these seaweeds would contribute to carbon drawdown, aiding in the removal of CO2 in the oceans. Additional benefits are protecting a farmers shellfish product while also adding a new revenue stream by selling seaweed products.

You can read more about the project here

You can read an article about Dr. Davis here

Shrimp farming is getting a boost from incorporating seaweeds

Aquaculture is beginning to shift from mono-culture to integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA). While IMTA is still relativity a new idea in the industry, nature has been doing it all along and new studies keep illustrating the benefits.

A study just came out this month (Jan 2019) that looked into adding seaweed to shrimp farms. The study added three seaweeds: Gracilaria vermiculophylla, Ulva lactuca,  and Dictyota dichotoma to ponds growing white legged shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei. Then shrimp were infected with V. parahaemolyticus and WSSV to assess disease resistance and response.

The use of macroalgae in co-culture with L. vannamei provided a nutritional benefit that achieved higher growth than the control organisms, as well as improvements of the ammonium concentration and immune response after infection with V. parahaemolyticus and WSSV.

The study concluded that these additional benefits were diet related, however, live seaweeds would change the water properties and testing water quality would be an interesting next step.

This is a good example how a company could change from one product to two while enhancing yield and quality of the original product with very little additional cost.

This research was published in the Journal of Fish & Shellfish Immunology

U.S. seaweed consumption is growing about 7% a year

James E. Griffin, an associate professor at Johnson & Wales University , claims that the U.S. consumption of seaweeds is growing approximately 7% annually. Griffin made this claim at the NRA (National Restaurant Association) show in May 2018. He also stated that the fine-dinning sector is leading the charge, while the U.S. consumer still lags considerably behind Asia and Europe in consumption.

As with other sea food, most of the seaweed in the U.S. is imported from Asia, about 90% said Griffin. This means that the U.S. has a growing market with little local production. Griffin also pointed out that the seaweed source matters, as they can take up heavy metals from the surrounding water. The U.S. has higher restrictions and oversight on water pollution than most countries, and could be well positioned to pivot to producing rather than importing.

Read the article from Nation’s Restaurant News

Chileans are shifting from seaweed gatherers to cultivators

A recent article in Botanica Marina highlights a shift in the seaweed industry. The seaweed industry in Chile has predominately been a process of gathering off the coast, but that’s all changing now. The Chilean government provided subsidies to seaweed farming activities and investments in local valorization of the resources. The subsidies coupled with an increased number of technical studies related to seaweed resources has enabled the industry to pivot to seaweed cultivation.

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!

seafood-platter-1232389_1920.jpg

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