Skip to main content
ARS Home » Animal Production and Protection » Research » Research Project #444679

Research Project: Removing Production Barriers for Small-scale Seaweed Farmers Through Responsive Research and Training Opportunities

Location: Animal Production and Protection

Project Number: 0208-32000-001-045-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 24, 2023
End Date: Jul 23, 2025

Seaweed aquaculture is an emerging industry in the United States. Seaweeds have traditionally been a small scale, wild harvest industry in the US; however, many industry members and regulatory agencies are turning to seaweed aquaculture to ensure stability in supply. NOAA Sea Grant’s National Seaweed Hub has identified access to kelp seed and nursery production as major barriers to the industry’s expansion. The current capacity of nursery facilities are limited and not able to keep up with increasing demand for seed. Many seaweed nurseries only provide seed to their partner farmers, leaving independent farmers and cooperatives struggling to secure seed. Available cultivation manuals: New England Seaweed Culture Handbook (Redmond 2014) and Ocean Approved Kelp Manual (Flavin 2013), have facilitated the establishment of brick-and-mortar operations, however, the high cost of real estate and associated costs add a significant financial burden to farmers who, though are willing to produce their own seed, can’t justify the cost for the short nursery season (two months). Kelp produces reproductive sorus tissue in the spring and fall, however, nursery production only occurs in the fall. Sorus tissue available in the spring, often found during harvest of farmed kelp, is discarded as there is not a use for it at that time of year. Farmers and regulators have asked if spring sorus can be preserved for use in the fall, when nursery production begins. Utilizing spring sorus would reduce the reliance on wild stocks (current source for seed material) for nursery production in the fall. A more practical approach to producing seed is needed.

In Year 1, a modular, mobile trailer will be purchased from OpBox Trailer in Maine. The unit will be outfitted for multiple uses, accommodating investigative and applied research, and training applications. The mobile seaweed laboratory will be outfitted and maintained at the University of Connecticut. The process of outfitting the unit will be documented by a videographer and Sea Grant Extension staff. A laboratory aide will be hired to assist in the assembly, operation and maintenance of the mobile laboratory. Outfitting and assistance with operational testing will be conducted by industry partner. The industry partner is an oysterman and kelp farmer who has constructed a non-mobile kelp nursery, producing kelp seed for personal use. The industry partner has agreed to provide his expertise in outfitting the mobile seaweed laboratory. In Year 2, production of kelp seeded-string will be conducted in the proof-of-concept mobile seaweed laboratory using nursery techniques adapted from the two seaweed cultivation manuals available. Quality and effectiveness of string seeded with cryopreserved sorus will be compared to string seeded with sorus collected from wild stocks (conventional method). Seeding operations will be led by the laboratory aide, and assisted by PI Concepcion and industry partner. The mobile seaweed laboratory will serve as a hands-on training tool for conducting responsive seaweed-related research. The mobility of the self-contained laboratory will enable instructors (PI Concepcion, CT Sea Grant laboratory aide) to travel to different areas in Connecticut and Southern New England, to offer on-site, hands-on training workshops requested by stakeholders.