Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Aquatic Animal Health Research » Research » Research Project #440179

Research Project: Saltwater Aquaponics in Puerto Rico: Queen Conch and Sea Vegetable Aquaculture

Location: Aquatic Animal Health Research

Project Number: 6010-32000-028-002-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2021
End Date: Aug 30, 2024

Stimulating the growth of a sustainable aquaculture industry is a key priority for Puerto Rico. The proposed project will use saltwater aquaculture technology to grow herbaceous halophyte plant species (sea vegetables) that are indigenous to Puerto Rico: sea asparagus (Salicornia bigelovii), sea purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum), and saltwort (Batis maritima) for use in local cuisines. As the name suggests, sea vegetables are edible and they have historically been foraged worldwide along many coasts. They are currently grown as cash crops in places such as Israel, the Netherlands, Hawaii, and South Carolina. The overall objective is to grow market-scale quantities of sea vegetable crops in a land-based saltwater aquaculture system while simultaneously removing nutrients from the outflow of a queen conch aquaculture system.

The goal of this project is to grow three species of native halophyte plants also known as sea vegetables, sea asparagus (Salicornia bigelovii), sea purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum), and saltwort (Batis maritima), as new sustainable aquaculture products in Puerto Rico for use in local cuisines. Sea vegetables have also been grown in Florida by PI Davis and coworkers in pilot-scale studies, using the excess nutrients from fish, shrimp and other species, in an Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture system at Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (FAU Harbor Branch). Sea vegetables are largely unnoticed in Puerto Rican cuisine and introducing it to the domestic food industry, targeting restaurants as well as households, will generate a market for a new aquaculture crop with economic and nutritional benefits. Location of the study: Using the technology developed by PI Davis and coworkers at FAU Harbor Branch saltwater aquaculture systems will be set up at the Naguabo Fishing Association at Húcares Beach to grow the sea vegetables and will leverage the existing SK NOAA queen conch aquaculture facility.