Photo: Domenic Manganelli, CA Goudey & Assoc.
ANCIENT MARINER Consortium is working in both temperate and tropical regions of the US with ambitions for global applications. Alaska, site of our first demonstration farm, has ideal waters and maritime resources for seaweed farming. There are 19 currently active farms, and that number is expected to double in the next two years. NOAA site analyses suggest that the total suitable area for seaweed farming in Alaska is about 16.5 million hectares. NOAA's National Center for Coastal Ocean Sciences, Coastal Aquaculture Siting and Sustainability Office uses approximately 60 site parameters include benthic surveys, energy and minerals, natural resources, navigation, oceanographic, meteorological, and water quality data to inform the site suitability assessments.
Puerto Rico and Florida are where we have focused efforts to start demonstration seaweed farms in the tropical US. There are no active seaweed farms there currently. NOAA site analyses suggest that the total suitable area for seaweed farming in the US Caribbean and west coast of Florida is more than 4 million hectares. The Nature Conservancy are our partners in Belize where they have helped establish tropical red seaweed farming cooperatives.
In Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire we manage kelp farms, and conduct common garden growth trials of different breeds of kelp. We also use these farm sites for demonstration of our purpose-built monitoring and harvesting vessels. There are over 50 kelp farm sites in New England currently. NOAA site analyses suggest that the total suitable area for seaweed farming in this area is about 7.5 million hectares.
To put these areal figures into global context, corn is planted on 5.5 million hectares in the US State of Iowa. The global seaweed industry annually harvests about 30 M tonnes worth about $12 B from about 200,000 farmed hectares. Only 37 countries out of 132 countries with suitable marine environments have any active seaweed farming.
In Vietnam, Greener Grazing™ has embarked on an ambitious project to make scalable Asparagopsis seaweed farming a reality. Greener Grazing is the world’s leading effort to close the lifecycle of Asparagopsis sp. and develop the foundational knowledge and tools needed to initiate ocean-based cultivation across multiple geographies. Greener Grazing is collaborating with partners like ANCIENT MARINER to accelerate the scale up of Asparagopsis farming to meet demand. Our work has the potential to virtually eliminate methane emissions from livestock digestion – arguably the food system’s single largest negative planetary impact – while significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the beef and dairy industries.
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Active (green) and planned (blue) demonstration farm sites
Figure: Mayra Sanchez-Garcia, MBL
Estimated 16.5 M ha of suitable area – Alaska
Estimated 200,000 ha of suitable area – Puerto Rico sites with 10 m to 100 m depths
Estimated 7.5 M ha of suitable area – New England