seaweed farm

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.