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Will Northwest Seaweed Farming Finally Take Off? - algaeplanet.com

Will Northwest Seaweed Farming Finally Take Off?

 Seagriculture EU 2024
Seagrove Kelp Co.

Markos Scheer, a former Seattle attorney, is developing his company, Seagrove Kelp Co., to be the biggest kelp farm in the U.S. In this picture Seagrove has 250 lines of kelp in the water.

Stefan Milne writes in SeattleMet.com that around 2013, a wave of headlines in the Northwest U.S. started promoting kelp as the new kale, the next major superfood – our potential ecological salvation. Although Western cultures largely eschew seaweeds as food, we’ve long intuited their benefits, she says.

Like mushrooms, seaweeds aren’t technically plants or animals yet share some qualities with both. Some have an almost meaty chew. Depending on the type, they can be rich in iodine, protein, trace minerals, omega-3 oils, and vitamins. Some varieties offer the best vegan sources of B12. One study estimated a “marine garden” the size of Washington state could provide enough protein to feed earth’s population, all while cleaning pollutants.

The Puget Sound has one of the most diverse seaweed floras on earth, with over 600 species. “We have natural kelp forests that provide vital habitat for ocean life, like salmon and rockfish, and act as carbon sinks. Yet scan the menu at most Seattle restaurants beating the drum of Northwest bounty, and you’ll find very little kelp,” she said.

To understand how foundational seaweeds are to humans one needs to go way back, more than a billion years. After an ice age, things thawed. Then a photosynthesizing bacterium knit together with an organism called a eukaryote. They formed microalgae, which much later mutated into macroalgae, or seaweeds. Some researchers argue that seaweeds’ iodine and omega-3 oils were key in Homo sapien’s development.

For thousands of years, for people all over, seaweed remained vital. The Pacific Coast of the Americas is known as the “kelp highway” for the migration brought on by its bounty. Northwest tribes deployed seaweeds variously: as food, medicine, fertilizer, and even as a kind of lid to steam open mussels and clams on hot rocks. The Makah Tribe would dry bull kelp into fishing line and nets.

Then came the European invaders. What we now recognize as American food — our wheat and beef — overshadowed what naturally grows here. Native diets underwent a “forced assimilation,” says Lisa Barrell, who manages the traditional foods project for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, on the Olympic Peninsula. The tribe long gathered and ate seaweeds. “Like so many other things, we just stopped.”

Bren Smith is U.S. kelp cultivation’s bellwether. The subject of many recent seaweed articles, he founded GreenWave, an East Coast nonprofit focused on training regenerative ocean farmers.

Kelp is a traditional food for tribes all along the West Coast. And Indigenous interest in farming is growing. Last year, Dune Lankard — an Eyak Athabaskan Native and longtime activist from Cordova, Alaska – partnered with Bren Smith and GreenWave to make sure that Indigenous concerns are represented in Alaska’s blooming industry.

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Seagriculture USA 2024



  • April 22, 2024: New England Kelp Harvest Week, a project started by the Sugar Kelp Collective in 2021, runs from April 20-30 this year. The group of kelp farmers and activists works with restaurants, bakeries, and fish markets to create special dishes and menus that use the sea vegetable, which grows in winter and is harvested in the spring. Across Connecticut, this provides an ideal opportunity for people to explore dishes and cocktails made with kelp. READ MORE...
  • April 19, 2024: Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who took spirulina had a lower risk of death than those who did not, according to results of a randomized controlled trial recently published in Frontiers in Immunology. READ MORE...
  • April 17, 2024: A research team exploring the untapped potential of seaweed farming for carbon sequestration is positioning Taiwan to play a role in offsetting global carbon emissions. READ MORE...
  • April 15, 2024: Somater, a French manufacturer of plastic and polymer primary packaging for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food, and industry, has partnered with French start-up Eranova to create a 100% bio-based line of packaging from green algae collected on the banks of a brackish water lagoon near Marseille, in the south of France. READ MORE...

Algae Europe 2024

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