Researchers begin first test of tropical seaweed farming for biofuels production

May 30, 2021 |

In Massachusetts and Puerto Rico, a team of researchers led by Loretta Roberson, associate scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, installed the first seaweed farm in Puerto Rico and U.S. tropical waters. The research array furthers the design and development of a system for offshore cultivation of tropical seaweeds to support large-scale production of biomass for biofuels and other valuable bioproducts.

“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,” says Roberson, the lead principal investigator on this research effort. Additional farms are being tested in Florida and Belize to assess scalability.

As the site is the first of its kind in the region, authorizations were required from numerous agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

“Facilitating research of this nature will be key for the development of sustainable aquaculture in this area,” says Roberson. “We have tested similar farm designs in New England and Alaska, but this will be the first test of the array in warm tropical waters where we expect higher fouling rates from other marine organisms, UV damage, and threats from hurricanes.” Unlike kelp cultivation, which is usually seasonal, tropical seaweed farming can support year-round harvesting.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , , ,

Category: Research

Thank you for visting the Digest.