Aquaculture for all

Atlantic Sea Farms reports record breaking kelp harvest

Climate change Restorative aquaculture Economics +6 more

Atlantic Sea Farms, the largest seaweed cultivation company in the US, reports that it harvested a record-breaking 1.3 million pounds of farmed seaweed in the 2024 harvest season.

Rope-grown seaweed being harvested by a boat.
Atlantic Sea Farms has helped lobster fishers to diversify their income streams by growing seaweed in the off-season

© Atlantic Sea Farms

The company, which partners with fishing families to farm kelp in Maine, Rhode Island, and Alaska, has expanded both the supply of domestic line-grown kelp, as well as the market for it.

Founded with a focus on bolstering fishermen’s incomes in the face of rapid climate change (with Gulf of Maine waters warming faster than 99 percent of oceans in the world), Atlantic Sea Farms now works with 40 partner farmers across 18 communities by providing free seed, technical assistance and a buy-back guarantee for the kelp that they grow on sites they lease from the state and operate independently.

Atlantic Sea Farms then turns the kelp into value-added products in their state-of-the-art processing facility. When Atlantic Sea Farms started, seaweed aquaculture at scale in the US was unproven – with only 53,500 pounds of cultivated seaweed harvested in the entire state of Maine in 2018. Now, Maine fishermen are leading the charge in growing the most climate-friendly food on the planet.

“Currently, our partner farmers are growing their existing farms and other skilled fishermen from harbors across the state are planning to incorporate kelp aquaculture into their annual business plan now and into the future,” said Atlantic Sea Farms kelp supply director Liz MacDonald about the increased interest in growing kelp from Maine’s fishing community.

“Kelp farming keeps commercial vessels and crew active on the water in slower seasons and keeps cash flow in coastal communities stimulating local businesses, schools and important working waterfront infrastructure.”

Keeping fishing families afloat

The 2024 kelp harvest season paid over $1 million to fishing families experiencing volatility in the fisheries they have relied on for generations. Atlantic Sea Farms’ partner farmers now grow the majority of the farmed seaweed in the US.

“Since 2019, we have worked incredibly hard to build an industry that affords the opportunity for fishermen to be true stakeholders in creating a more resilient coastal economy and healthier ocean,” CEO Briana Warner said of the 2024 harvest.

“Our terrestrial food system in the US isn’t working - it’s destroying our environment, making farmers poorer and consumers less healthy. By working with fishermen and shellfish farmers, who are already strong stewards of the ocean, we are making regenerative, US-farmed kelp available to consumers at scale for the first time while also expanding opportunities for our fishing communities.”

As Atlantic Sea Farms and its partner farmers are finding innovative ways to economically adapt to the effects of warming ocean waters, their method of regeneratively farming seaweed is also helping to protect the environment. Since 2019, ASF has removed approximately 500,000lbs of carbon from Maine’s coastal oceans.

“Kelp cultivation in Maine is the gold standard for regenerative aquaculture. It’s zero input, high yielding, locally grown, and native to our coastal waters. It enhances our state waters while improving our waterfront economies, ” said Thew Suskiewicz, the seaweed cultivation center director at Atlantic Sea Farms.

Justin Papkee, a lobsterman from Long Island, Maine who has farmed kelp for five seasons in partnership with Atlantic Sea Farms, said about this year’s kelp harvest: “It’s been great to partner with Atlantic Sea Farms and with this year’s harvest we are really seeing the fruits of our labor. As a fisherman and a new father, it feels important to do my part to build an environmentally beneficial and resilient industry for future generations to come.”

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