Macrocystis is one of the groups of kelp to be part of the seaweed farming trial in Tasmania. Courtesy: Dr. Craig Sanderson

Macrocystis is one of the groups of kelp to be part of the seaweed farming trial in Tasmania. Courtesy: Dr. Craig Sanderson

Sally Dakis reports for Tas Country Hour that salmon farming group Tassal is teaming up with Tasmanian seaweed specialists to trial seaweed farming on fish farm leases. Kai Ho, a company established by seafood purveyor Ashmore Foods Tasmania, and botanist Dr. Craig Sanderson, will trial the farming of three native seaweeds on eight salmon and oyster leases in this island state, located 150 miles to the south of the Australian mainland. Other partners in the six-month trial include oyster hatchery Cameron of Tasmania and Seaweeds Tasmania.

Dr. Sanderson said it was a win-win, with the macroalgae extracting nutrients from the ocean, enhancing marine habitats, and producing edible seaweeds and alginates for industrial uses. “In 2020 there are forecasts that worldwide, seaweeds are going to be a $20 billion industry,” he said.

“Seaweed is an extractive aquaculture crop rather than a feed-based crop,” he said. “We are actually taking nutrients out of the water. So if there are any impacts shown from some of the farms, possibly from the addition of nutrients, there might be the option of growing seaweeds to take out some of those nutrients – if they are going to be problematic in some parts of the coast.”

The trial will be based on three fast-growing native seaweeds: Lessonia corrugata, Ecklonia radiata and Macrocysts pyrifera – that are suitable to grow on a longline. “It has to be a scientific trial to find out which are going to be the best species and the best place to grow them,” Dr. Sanderson said. “We would rather be growing local species. Worldwide there are thousands of tons of seaweeds grown, but not of the species we grow down here.”

For Cameron of Tasmania, the trial is a diversification strategy, given the industry suffered massive losses after the arrival of the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome in Tasmania earlier this year. “The question is if it can be economically done down here,” Dr. Sanderson said. “Through our company here – because we sell seaweeds to the mainland – definitely at the upper end of the market it can be profitable.”

Read More