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Kelp farming is cropping up as a new industry

News of Ocean Approved has reached Alaska! The kelp industry is rapidly expanding and we are excited to be a part of that movement.

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by Laine Welch, Alaska Dispatch News

Sea farmers can grow lots more than fish and oysters. Growing less labor-intensive underwater ocean veggies is an exploding market around the world, especially for products made from kelp. Globally, kelp drives a $5 billion industry. Some examples:

Ocean Approved of Maine, which claims to be America’s first and only commercial kelp farm, launched a line of kelp cubes this month at the Boston Seafood Show. The cubes are aimed at the popular smoothie market, which has expanded the use of the green veggie in its juices. The company also sells kelp “sea slaw,” “sea rounds” and “wraps.” Ocean Approved began in 2009 and has been seeded with a half million dollars in grants from NOAA Fisheries and the Maine Technology Institute. The company produces 33,000 pounds per acre on five acres annually and business has increased 400 percent in two years, according to the Casco Times.

Kelp also is the latest crop that Canada’s fish farmers are cashing in on. The country’s largest salmon grower, Cooke Aquaculture, recently debuted  its own brand of certified organically winged and sugar kelp. It can be cooked or served up fresh, and is sold under Cooke’s True North brand.

Chile also is getting into the kelp mix. Based on a 2013 economic study, Chile estimates a kelp industry in its northern fish farming region would bring in $540 million annually in U.S. dollars.

The growing interest in and uses for kelp are not lost on Alaska, where a Mariculture Initiative is building support for expansion, notably in Western Alaska. Currently, there are 31 sea farms operating in Alaska; five are growing kelp along with oysters and other shellfish.