There has been a long history of seaweed research at Queens Marine Laboratory, with influential research being carried out by Prof.Matt Dring in the early 1980s on hatchery cultivation of Palmaria palmata. Since then, QML has carried out several PhD and postdoctural research projects involving local seaweed species, escalating to two large scale projects on seaweed longline cultivation in Strangford Lough with the Interreg IVB funded EnAlgae Project, and the BBSRC and EPSRC funded Seagas Project.
These later projects are aiming to perfect techniques for hatchery cultivation and longline growth at sea of kelp species, using the end product as a source of biofuel via anaerobic digestion. However, there are a myriad of potential uses for cultivated seaweed, ranging from human and animal food to pharmaceutical products, or as cleaning systems for areas of eutrophic water.
Here are numerous advantages that growing seaweed as a crop may have over land based crops grown for similar uses. As the vast majority of the growth phase takes place at sea there is no competition from other land users. Seaweeds may also be viewed as a carbon neutral crop due to the fact that as they grow they produce oxygen, do not require additional fertilisers, and once outside do not require excessive energy use from electricity, machinery and water in order to grow. The growth rate of kelp is extremely fast, and seedlings from a hatchery can grow up to 3m in length in less than 6 months.
There are several steps to large scale macroalgal production. Further information can be found by clicking the links below: