The Marine Biological Laboratory is leading a project to design and develop a cultivation system for the tropical seaweed Eucheumatopsis isiformis (Eucheuma isiforme) for large-scale production of biomass for biofuels. Eucheumoids are a commercially valuable species of red macroalgae, primarily cultivated in Asia, which have been difficult to propagate in a cost-effective manner and are limited to easily accessible areas near shore.
Our farm system mechanizes the seeding and harvesting process to drastically reduce labor costs, can be deployed in offshore areas to greatly expand large-scale production, and will increase biomass yield per dollar of capital investment. The ultimate goal of the project is to cost-effectively produce biomass at scale in underutilized areas of the Gulf of Mexico and tropical U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones where year-round production is possible.
Through partnerships with experts at 15 different institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations, and national laboratories, farm systems will be deployed and monitored in Florida, Puerto Rico and Belize. This will provide a suite of critical data on the performance of farm systems in offshore areas and their productivity potential.
These diverse sites provide a wide range of exposure to wind, waves, temperature, light and nutrients that will help us understand how environmental conditions influence the biological, physiological, and chemical properties of the cultivated macroalgae and the performance of the farm system, as well as how algae farms might improve water quality through removal of excess nutrients and buffering of pH.
The project is funded by the US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) MARINER (Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources) program.