Seaweed is a greatly underestimated resource that provides food and shelter to marine life. It is also used as a food source for people - often referred to as a ‘superfood’ that is rich in iodine and calcium and contains natural antioxidants, minerals and amino acids. Seaweed is also an important source for future supply of food and feed (additives), pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, biomaterials and bioenergy.
Seaweed farming is a mature multi-billion dollar industry and some Asian countries produce tens of millions of tonnes a year. But although seaweed grows prolifically in Scottish waters, there is no seaweed farming industry to speak off in the UK.
SAMS is conducting research that would support an industry to develop: identifying the most advantageous species to farm, developing cultivation and harvesting techniques, exploring how to identify and control seaweed pathogens and the policies needed to manage such an industry.
To do so, we have developed two experimental seaweed farms in the vicinity of SAMS.
Currently we focus on cultivation of Alaria esculenta, Saccharina latissima, Laminaria hyperborea, Palmaria palmata and Ulva.
When it became operational early in 2013 the SAMS seaweed farm off the Isle of Kerrera was the first of its kind in the UK.
Location: 56.38N, 5.54W within the Sound of Kerrera
Farm setup: 60 m longlines similarly set up to a mussel farm
Depth: 5 - 25 m (but Sound of Kerrera reaches down to 60 m)
Currents: Semi-diurnal tidal current of 0.77 m/s during spring tides
Exposure: Predominantly south-westerly winds from the Atlantic - rather sheltered by the island. This site is close to shore and relatively easy to acces in most weather conditions. It lends itself well to experimental research that requires frequent site access.
It comprises a total of 180 m of double long lines. Here we investigate the physiochemical variables like temperaturel light, nutrients and wave exposure on the optimal seaweed growth conditions.
This farm is the largest experimental seaweed farm in the UK and is used for upscaling studies as it approaches a size that could be commercially viable.
Farm location: 56.49N, 5.47W in the Lynn of Lorne off the island of Lismore
Scale of farm: 30 hectares currently with a single 100 x 100 m grid system for growing of seaweed. The site can hold up to 24 x 100m lines.
Depth range: 15 - 25 m
Mean current speed: 0.1 m/s at 5 m below the surface
Exposure: The Lynn of Lorne is 3 km wide at the farm which is thus very exposed to south-westerly winds from the Atlantic.
Current monitoring system: Temperature and salinity are recorded every 30 mins through a logger. Nutrient measurements are carried out through water sampling depending on requirements.