SEAWEED INUSTRY HAS A PROMISING FUTURE IN ALASKA
Alaska’s commercial seaweed industry, which was nonexistent five years ago, has been growing rapidly and is projected to be a big source of revenue for the state’s coastal communities. A taskforce projected that Alaska could build a $100 million mariculture industry within 20 years, of which kelp would make up about 20 percent.
Michael Stekoll, a University of Alaska researcher, says the state is ideal for farming cold-loving kelp because there’s plenty of space, marine infrastructure already exists, and new mariculture operations won’t ruffle feathers. “It’s a fishing state and people understand the value of using the ocean commercially,” Stekoll says.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of seaweed is that it doesn’t overlap with the summer fishing season. Alaskan farmers seed the kelp in fall, let it grow during winter, and harvest the crop in spring. Harvest has grown exponentially since 2017 as operations expand and new farms pop up.
One of the biggest drivers behind the new industry is California-based Blue Evolution, a company that buys seaweed from farms in Mexico and Alaska. They sell dried ribbon kelp, dried sugar kelp, and pasta made with a blend of wheat and seaweed. The company touts seaweed as a superfood full of nutrients, vitamins, and amino acids that grows with nothing but sunlight.