Caribbean
Loretta Roberson

Int'l - First offshore seaweed farm established in US tropical waters

The first seaweed farm in US tropical waters has been installed in Puerto Rico, in a bid to support large-scale production of algal biomass for biofuels and other valuable bioproducts.

The pilot farm was established by Loretta Roberson of the University of Chicago's Marine Biological Laboratory. Additional farms are being tested in Florida and Belize to assess scalability.

"Puerto Rico has stable warm temperatures and ample sunlight year-round, as well as a wide range of exposure to prevailing winds and waves. These conditions make its southern coastline an ideal test bed for exploring how environmental conditions influence the biological, physiological, and chemical properties of cultivated macroalgae, as well as the impact of seaweed farms on the surrounding environment," Roberson said in a press release by MBL,

In addition to developing the best methods for cultivating these seaweed species in offshore environments, the team seeks to further quantify the ecosystem services associated with farming activities, including habitat provision for a variety of species and the improvement of water quality

The researchers are currently targeting commercially valuable red algal eucheumatoid species, which are primarily cultivated in East Africa and Asia. To date, eucheumatoids have been difficult to propagate in a cost-effective manner and production has been limited to easily accessible areas near shore. In addition to developing the best methods for cultivating these species in offshore environments, the project team seeks to further quantify the ecosystem services associated with the farming activities. These likely include habitat provision for a variety of marine species and the improvement of water quality through removal of excess nutrient and buffering of pH.

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