Seaweed Cultivation

Seaweed Outreach and Extension Activities

Anoushka Concepcion and Long Island Sound kelp
Anoushka Concepcion, CT Sea Grant Extension

Connecticut Sea Grant has dedicated a significant amount of research and extension funds to the investigation of appropriate species and methodology for seaweed or sea vegetable cultivation. This funding has resulted in the publication of several peer-reviewed journal and magazine articles, production manuals, and technology transfer videos. In addition, Sea Grant Extension staff are collaborating with researchers, industry and regulators to commercialize this emerging industry.

Two species of seaweeds that are approved for cultivation and commercial sale in Connecticut include the sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) and Gracilaria tikvahaie. The growing season for sugar kelp is in the winter and spring, whereas Gracilaria grows in the late summer to early fall. Approved forms of kelp for human consumption include fresh (raw) kelp and kelp noodles. Gracilaria is only approved for commercial sale when cultivated in tanks (controlled environment).

To date, eight commercial operations have permits to cultivate seaweed in Long Island Sound and there are many more in the permitting application process. Connecticut Sea Grant has contributed to seaweed aquaculture industry in several important ways:

  1. Developing the regulatory framework for seaweed aquaculture
  2. Co-authored a chapter on seaweed aquaculture production hazards
  3. Provided development funds toward the safety evaluation of kelp allowing the first commercial grower to sell product
  4. Partnered with the lead aquaculture regulatory agency in the state to develop a guidance document on potential hazards associated with the production and processing of seaweeds in Long Island Sound
  5. Facilitating dialogue between stakeholders and regulators that resulted in the passage of legislation to benefit growers.
  6. Organizing and facilitating an annual kelp industry meeting.

On December 4, 2014, a Seaweed Regulatory Meeting was held at UConn Avery Point, hosted by Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture. This meeting was the first to focus on discussing regulatory concerns of seaweed production and processing for human consumption in Southern New England. Regulators from NY, CT, RI and MA participated either in person or over the phone.

Projects in progress include:

  1. An extensive consumer marketing survey of Connecticut residents on their consumption, awareness and perception of seaweed and shellfish aquaculture
  2. Identify, conduct, and establish processing protocols and guidelines for various types of seaweed products
    a. fresh (raw) – handling and storage
    b. dried (dehydrated or desiccated) – processing and storage
  3. Connecticut Sea Grant continues to provide one-on-one consultation with potential and current seaweed producers in grow-out techniques, processing, and regulatory information.

Current Bottlenecks

  1. Lack of federal guidelines on the production and processing of seaweed
    a. Guidelines will set standards regulating sanitation of handling, storage, and processing of seaweed
    b. United States Federal Drug Administration considers seaweed as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) when only used as a spice
  2. Lack of consistent commercial seed-string supply
  3. Lack of large-scale commercial processing facilities for non-food commodities
  4. Lack of available markets for seaweed

Seaweed Resources for Connecticut Producers

For more information about seaweed aquaculture in Connecticut, please contact Anoushka Concepcion. (860) 405-9105