GROTON, CT — Kelp farming and harvesting is now a reality in Long Island Sound, as a result of a Connecticut Sea Grant research project led by Dr. Charles Yarish. Yarish is a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut in Stamford. The first crop of farmed kelp in Long Island Sound was harvested on February 14, 2012.
Kelp is a seaweed that is used for food, alginate extraction, and other products such as animal feeds and fertilizer. It also has significant potential as a biofuel. Using techniques that the research team has developed, kelp is cultured at UConn’s Stamford campus in Yarish’s laboratory using special seed string wrapped around PVC pipe and then deployed in the Sound on longlines. The kelp grew from sporelings that were less than 2 milllimeters–about the size of a pinhead–in December 2011, to 1 meter (3.38 feet) long in just two months. The kelp grows very quickly in winter, as seen by the rapid harvest. Harvesting is easy; take the boat out and haul in the ropes.
As an outreach offshoot of the project, Yarish’s team has started a similar system at the Bridgeport Regional Aquaculture School and Technology Education Center (a specialized high tech high school) in Bridgeport, CT.
As it grows, the seaweed uses nutrients from the water to grow healthy tissue, just like farmers use nitrogen fertilizer to grow tomatoes and other food crops. Shellfish or fish farmers could add kelp to their existing efforts as a second crop and also clean the waters by removing the excess nitrogen in urban coastal waters. The research team is developing a manual and a CD which will be made available online by Sea Grant, for growing kelp and other seaweed species.
Connecticut Sea Grant, at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, supports coastal and marine research, outreach and education. It is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program.
For more on Connecticut Sea Grant’s seaweed farming efforts, see
http://seagrant.uconn.edu/publications/magazines/wracklines/fallwinter11/dream.pdf. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for photos of the kelp planting and harvest.