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November 7, 2017

NOAA awards $1.1M in grants to boost aquaculture research

Courtesy / The Island Institute
Courtesy / The Island Institute
The Island Institute in Rockland earlier this year released a study that shows the possibilities for Maine's edible seaweed industry, from processing to packaging and selling locally. Two awards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will advance those goals by supporting seaweed and blue mussel aquaculture research projects in Maine.

Two awards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will support seaweed and blue mussel aquaculture research projects in Maine.

The University of Maine news blog reported that a grant of $908,015 to UMaine researchers will support research into sustainable post-harvest processing — such as drying, blanching and freezing — of aquacultured seaweed and development of value-added products. Researchers will work with industry partners in New England, with the goal of increasing capacity of Maine seaweed producers and processors to compete in the food marketplace.

And an award of $249,238 to Brian Beal of the Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education will support study of large-scale culture of blue mussel seed, to provide to commercial aquaculturists for grow-out. Demand for mussels in the Northeast exceeds the current domestic supply, but seed production is the main factor limiting expansion of mussel aquaculture.

In October, the University of New England landed a United States Department of Energy grant for $1.32 million to develop technologies that will enable the United States to become a leading producer of seaweed, by developing a fine-tuned three-dimensional modeling tool to simulate hydrodynamic-induced mechanical stresses that seaweed farms face in the open ocean. That data could then be used to determine the structural performance of new and existing farm designs in the Gulf of Maine.

Edible seaweed is being eyed as a sustainable addition to the economy island and coastal communities, not only putting more local food into the marketplace, but also giving needed diversification for the state's fishing and lobster industries.

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