International seaweed processors visit Kodiak

On October 29, a group of international seaweed processors visited Kodiak and the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center (KSMSC). The delegation stopped in Kodiak as part of a tour of coastal Alaska that included Ketchikan, Juneau, Cordova, and Dutch Harbor. The event was organized by Julie Decker and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation. The companies and organizations in attendance included Ocean Rainforest from the Faroe Islands, Kelp Blue based out of the Netherlands, Oceanium of Scotland, and the World Wildlife Fund. 

Ocean Rainforest, Kelp Blue, and Oceanium assessed the possibility of establishing seaweed buying and processing facilities in Alaska, which has the potential to grow large volumes of seaweeds, and offers some of the most productive farming operations in the U.S. The company representatives toured existing processing infrastructure and visited local kelp farms along their tour. 

Two men holding a large collander
Alaska Sea Grant’s Chris Sannito and Tav Ammu demonstrating how to process sugar kelp at the KSMSC pilot plant. Photo by JR Ancheta, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) joined the tour to assess potential investments in Alaskan mariculture operations. The WWF invests in sustainable and ecologically sound businesses globally, with a preference towards economically disadvantaged communities. 

During their stop at the KSMSC, the visitors spoke with members of the local mariculture community. Kelp and oyster farmers in attendance answered questions about farm production and other aspects of their business. The group toured the Alaska Wildsource seafood processing plant and  the KSMSC pilot plant and laboratory facilities where faculty highlighted the processing, product development, food safety and other support that the KSMSC offers to the emerging mariculture industry in Alaska. 

Buyers and processors of seaweeds will  jumpstart the Alaskan kelp farming industry. Currently, Kodiak is the top producer of farmed kelp, with over 300,000 pounds of kelp harvested and processed in 2021. The current potential yield from Kodiak farms is around 4.5 million pounds, and additional markets for seaweeds are needed to achieve this production. These visits are an important step to growing the mariculture industry in Alaska.