Developing seaweed farming to produce a high-value product

BIM working with industry and researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and NUI Galway developed cultivation techniques for farming native seaweed usilised in high value products such as medicines, cosmetics and functional foods.

Project aim: the commercial cultivation of Kelp (Laminaria digitata)

Ireland’s seaweed and biotechnology sector is worth €18m annually. Supplied mainly from the wild resource there is great commercial potential for Irish aquaculture through the farming of seaweed for use in this high value sector.

We worked with Laminaria digitata (Kelp) to develop cultivation techniques for farming this native species.

Our methods

For the period 2008 – 2011:

  • Working with three hatcheries we trialled techniques to establish spore cultures for Laminaria digitata
  • The optimum growth environment was created for the seaweed plantlets prior to on-growing at sea
  • The plantlets were then deployed at five licensed sea sites where we held ‘industry days’ bringing the research team to the sites to discuss on-growing methods to best achieve a healthy crop

In preparation for roll out we undertook a market analysis of the industry and developed a business plan for setting up a seaweed farm.

Line of containers with seaweed spore solution   
The spore solution can be maintained in the hatchery ready for
spraying onto the specially prepared collector string

Seeing the benefits: farms developed to commercial scale

  • Seaweed is being commercially farmed by a number of the companies involved in the trial. We continue to work closely with the farms, providing technical and financial assistance. 
  • The species Laminaria digitata is now easily manipulated in the hatchery and our techniques guarantee establishment of spore cultures when the seaweed is fertile. 

A farmer accessing the growing crop at sea using a mussel-harvesting vessel      
Mussel harvesters were used to harvest Laminaria at one of the sites

Future Plans

Other species such as Alaria esculenta, Saccharina latissima and the high value red seaweed, Palmaria palmata have been investigated with a view to perfecting cultivation techniques.

Project PBA/SW/07/001(01), ran from February 2008 to December 2011. This project was carried out under the Sea Change Strategy with the support of the Marine Institute and the Marine Research Sub-programme of the National Development Plan, 2007-2013.

Contact Us

To learn more about this project, contact:

Lucy Watson
Direct: +353 1 2144 288

Project Data

Go to our library for the indept report on our cultivation techniques for Laminaria digitatat and the market analysis and business planning for a hatchery and farm

And to read about our work to date cultivating the high value red seaweed, Palmaria palmata