- Vegetables: cabbages, carrots, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), onions, other, tomatoes
- Crop Production: food processing, greenhouses, other
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer
- Farm Business Management: feasibility study
- Natural Resources/Environment: other
- Production Systems: other
Most kelp farms plant their crop in November, harvest in May, and sell the wet crop to large processors who transform the kelp into consumer-friendly products. If the Kelp Farmer can dry their harvest, a 48-hour indoor process, the income potential triples, from $.50 to $1.50 per pound wet weight. Once dried, the kelp can be packaged locally and sold retail for an even greater value. Additionally, in response to covid-related market disruptions, many kelp farmers are interested in locally processing their own product. The biggest impediment to this opportunity is the investment in land and buildings, usually a greenhouse, to incorporate drying in the kelp farming operation.
This grant will help support a synergistic collaboration on Vinalhaven Island between a land farm and an aquaculture farm to repurpose a greenhouse for one month, April, to facilitate drying operations for the kelp crop. What will the impact be of a shortened growing season, at harvest for the kelp farm and at seed starting on the land farm? Will drying a saltwater crop in a land farm greenhouse do harm to the growing soil? Is there a new business opportunity available to both farmers when the dried kelp product is added to the farm produce and sold at the farm stand with innovative recipes?
This new model, if proven to be financially viable, is easily expandable along the Maine coast where farms and aquaculture operations are often in close proximity. All operations will be managed using organic and sustainable practices.
Project objectives from proposal:
1. To minimize the impact to the land farmer’s growing season the harvesting and drying process must be done in the month of April. The normal growing season for kelp is Dec to May. Will an acceptable crop yield result in planting three weeks early, Nov, and harvesting three weeks early, April? Normal yield is 5 to 8 lbs. wet weight per linear foot. Measurement: Yield 4 lbs. per foot or greater.
2. What will the opportunity cost be for the land farmer in getting greenhouse crops started later in the season? Can this opportunity cost be mitigated by informed farm management? Measurement: Impact less than $1,800 on annual sales.
3. Will drying a saltwater crop in the land farm greenhouse harm the soil or greenhouse environment? Measurement: Negligible impact to the greenhouse soil.
4. Will this operation expand the farms consumer sales to include kelp products in the current inventory of farm to table products? What strategies need to be employed to maximize the sale of compatible land and aquaculture products? Measurement: Kelp sales greater than 5% of farm sales.