Improving Productivity of Casco Bay Kelp Farms Using Spatiotemporal Analysis of Coastal Nutrient Data

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,754.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Maine
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Damian Brady
University of Maine


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: aquaculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Over the past 10 years Casco Bay, ME has been witness to both the birth of the U.S. seaweed farming industry and, more recently, a dramatic rise of interest in kelp farming (35 leases and licenses at present). The next logical step for the fledging industry is to increase the production and reliability of these farms. Similar to many terrestrial crops, nitrogen is a critical nutrient required for growth of kelp; but unlike a terrestrial farmer who can apply fertilizer to a plot of land, an aquatic farmer has little to no knowledge of the nitrogen present in the water column or the seasonality of the nitrogen dynamics their farm. A number of coastal water monitoring programs have nitrate or dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) observations for strategic locations in Casco Bay but no one has transformed, interpreted, and forecasted nitrogen dynamics in a way that is explicitly relevant to the Bay’s kelp farmers. This project leverages historical and recent data collection efforts in a spatiotemporal analysis linking nutrient availability and crop characteristics for kelp farms in Casco Bay. The results of this analysis will be used to generate siting and harvesting recommendations for Casco Bay kelp farmers seeking to increase farm productivity and net income.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project has two (2) overarching research objectives supported by four (4) strategies:

    1) Conduct a spatiotemporal analysis of nutrient availability and crop characteristics for kelp farms in Casco Bay
    a. Characterize relationships between observed nitrogen availability and the morphological characteristics of kelp on existing kelp farms in Casco Bay
    b. Model spatial and temporal variability in bioavailable nitrogen throughout Casco Bay

    2) Generate siting and harvesting recommendations for current and prospective kelp farmers
    a. Explain how nitrogen incorporated into kelp tissue over a growing season compares to nitrogen dynamics both observed at specific sites and projected throughout the bay
    b. Summarize observations about environmental conditions that support peak biomass or other desirable characteristics of kelp

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.