Decreasing access, uncertainty, and concern about wild harvest seafood sustainability is leading to an increasing interest in aquaculture. While seaweed aquaculture is a promising new area for growth in the US, production is limited to a small number of farms that cultivate just one or two species of kelp. The red seaweed nori (Porphyra spp.) is the most valuable seaweed in the world, cultivated on a large scale in Asia. We propose to develop a new approach to cultivation in Maine waters for a native species of nori, Porphyra umbilicalis, utilizing an innovative three dimensional vertical growing system. This project will allow us to develop reliable nursery systems for production of high quality seed, new cultivation systems for increased biomass production in Maine waters, and harvesting and processing technologies to increase efficiency and value of the new crop.
The development of new cultivation systems for will offer new opportunities for sustainable and environmentally responsible economic development in the US, especially in rural coastal areas. Economically viable seaweed farming can offer opportunity for diversification to traditional fishermen, oyster, mussel, and fish farmers, and encourage more women farmers. Seaweed farming can help improve water quality, requires no fertilizer or fresh water, and produces nutritionally dense vegetarian seafood. The new crops can be sold fresh, dried, and processed into other snacks and foods, creating new opportunities for farmers, food producers, and consumers.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project seeks to develop reliable nursery, cultivation, and harvesting protocols for production of nori using our innovative three-dimensional vertical cultivation system.
Objective 1: To develop nursery protocols for nori that will produce viable seed. The measurable benefit will be the new aquaculture crops this new seed will enable farmers to grow.
-What affects spore viability of wild harvested and nursery reared seed stock, and how can it be improved?
-How can freezing be utilized to store spore solution and seeded lines?
Objective 2: To grow out seeded growing systems on open water farm to determine optimal cultivation parameters. This will inform seaweed farmers of seasonality, culture period, and techniques for grow out.
What are the optimal growing seasons and environmental conditions?
-What are the optimal husbandry techniques for each crop?
-How to optimize quality and yield, avoiding issues of biofouling?
Objective 3: To develop and trial nori growing system harvest and processing systems. Seaweed farmers will be able to harvest and process their own crops, or sell to other buyers.
-How will the vertical growing systems be managed at sea for tending and harvest?
-Can we optimize yields through continuous harvest, what are the options for post harvest processing?