Alaskans trained on seaweed handling and processing

People cutting and bagging seaweed on processing table.

To help Alaska businesses access the market potential of edible seaweed, Alaska Sea Grant led the second Seaweed Handling and Processing Workshop this spring at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center (KSMSC), with participants from Cordova, Anchorage, Juneau, and Kodiak.

The United States imports around 19 million tons of edible seaweed annually. Domestic kelp production at a large scale is becoming an area of increasing national interest and investment, and Alaska’s productive environment is uniquely positioned to meet an increasing share of the domestic and export markets. Organizations including Alaska Sea Grant are addressing the state’s lack of large-scale processing capacity and guidance through collaborative research and training.

The three-day workshop was developed to serve new and established workers and entrepreneurs in the seafood processing, mariculture, and food production industries. Topics cover the fundamentals of starting and running a commercial seaweed processing operation and are based on the Alaska Sea Grant publication Seaweed Handling and Processing Guidelines for Alaska

Alaska Sea Grant mariculture specialist Missy Good and Alaska Ocean Farms’ Lexa Meyer began the workshop with an introduction to kelp farming and an overview of seaweed biology and farm operations. Seafood technology specialist Chris Sannito taught seafood safety and processing methods, and Brian Himelbloom, seafood microbiologist (retired), discussed important aspects of seafood microbiology relevant to seaweed. Seafood marketing specialist Quentin Fong led a session on product marketing.

Man in a lab holding tube. Two women in background watching.

The workshop included discussion of state and federal permitting and regulations, a webinar on recent advances in seaweed drying and processing technology in Scandinavia, and a tour of a local seafood processing plant.

Participants went home with a better understanding of kelp processing methods and markets, food safety, and the challenges the industry faces and needs to overcome.

New this year was an introduction to high pressure processing (HPP) provided by visiting experts Errol Raghubeer with JBT Corporation and John Reilly with Quintus Technologies. HPP is a new processing technology for extending shelf life of seaweed products. HPP extends refrigerated shelf life 2–10 times longer than unprocessed foods, without impacting nutritional value.

The seaweed handling and processing workshop is part of a larger effort to boost the state’s mariculture industry. Alaska Sea Grant and partners will host an online discussion on July 28, from 9:00 am to 12:10 pm, to address a seaweed processing hurdle: meeting the state’s drying capacity needs. The online forum, open to the public, will offer expert insight into seaweed drying equipment, processing and markets, community capacity and needs, and how this applies to the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Alaska Mariculture Cluster project. Those tuning in will have opportunities to ask questions after panel discussion. To attend this July 28 event, register for the Seaweed drying forum: Meeting Alaska’s drying capacity needs.

dried seaweed on baking sheets