December 17, 2015
The Macroalgae Nursery and Research Cluster (MNRC), a part of the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture and Fisheries (SEAFISH) Program at the UNE Marine Science Center, recently provided new ocean farmers with kelp seedlings to grow their first crop of sugar kelp in their inaugural growing season.
On December 16, 2015, the founders of kelp farming business Kelpful, Mason Loveitt and Cory Underwood, visited the Marine Science Center to obtain 800 feet of seeded kelp line to be planted on their four small kelp farms in Casco Bay. When fully grown and harvested, the kelp seedlings provided to Kelpful by the MNRC could yield upwards of 10,000 pounds of kelp.
Globally, seaweed aquaculture, the farming of macroalgae species in the ocean, is a $7 billion per year industry. In Maine, it is an important emerging industry with the potential to create jobs, produce highly nutritious ocean foods, diversify working waterfronts, and continue Maine’s maritime heritage into the 21st century.
“The nursery phase is an intensive and expensive part of the farming process,” said SEAFISH program coordinator Adam St. Gelais. “By providing this service and making macroalgae seedlings available, we reduce greatly the barriers to entry for prospective seaweed farmers.”
The MNRC will serve as a regional seaweed nursery for southern Maine and Casco Bay regions and as a center for applied seaweed aquaculture research. It is an outcome of the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET), a state-wide, multi-institutional project funded by the National Science Foundation, co-led by UNE and the University of Maine.