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July 24, 2018

College of Atlantic launches partnership with largest U.S. seaweed farm

About College of the Atlantic

College of the Atlantic, a leader in experiential learning and environmental stewardship, was named the No. 1 "green college" in the United States by The Princeton Review and the Sierra Club in 2016 and 2017. Students attending the college design their own major in human ecology — which integrates knowledge from across academic disciplines and seeks to understand and improve the relationships between humans and their natural, built, and social environments.

The owners of the country's largest organic seaweed farm are partnering with College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor to create and operate a saltwater research and production facility on the school's campus.

Springtide Seaweed's Sarah Redmond and Trey Angera, who operate a 35-acre aquaculture lease in Frenchman Bay and several other sites along the Maine coast, will use the new saltwater lab to isolate and culture seed stock for a host of North Atlantic seaweed farms, experiment with local cultivars, and host student projects and experiments in the emergent field of Maine seaweed farming.

In exchange for the space, which is being developed in the basement of the college's Turrets building, Redmond and Angera will work to incorporate the social, environmental, and scientific aspects of seaweed production, distribution and consumption into the college's curriculum.

"We are very excited and fortunate to be working with COA," Angera said in a news release announcing the partnership. "There are tremendous opportunities for students to learn and experiment with seaweed aquaculture, and having so many fresh eyes on our processes will offer us many chances to improve what we do. It's going to be a great collaboration."

Diversifying Maine’s coastal economies

With the Gulf of Maine warming faster than 99% of oceans around the world and traditional Maine fisheries under threat, ocean farming is an important, sustainable practice with great potential, COA President Darron Collins said.

"Anything we can do to help the coast of Maine diversify economically, and especially through our sustainable resource economy, provides a bulwark against changing environmental conditions and warming ocean waters," Collins said. "Sarah and Trey are the best in the business and we are excited to have their help dreaming up and implementing all kinds of projects around this important type of work."

The 600-square-foot lab will produce a sizeable amount of stock, Redmond said. One foot of string, seeded with 2 millimeter plants in the lab, will produce up to 10 pounds of seaweed in the bay, she said. The facility will also contain a test kitchen and a small-scale tank aquaculture setup for year-round plants.

Springtide grows four types of kelp and are working on cultivating dulse and nori for local waters. Beyond fresh and dried seaweed, they also sell seasonings and prepared food products like seaweed mac-n-cheese, popcorn, and pickled seaweed stipes.

"I'm really excited to have both Trey and Sarah working with the college," said Chris Petersen, a biology professor and associate academic dean at the college. "They provide breadth and depth in areas that we are interested in but really don't have expertise, and they complement our work in marine conservation and climate change."

A growing industry

Angera and Redmond are in the process of launching a state-of-the-art processing facility on the other side of Frenchman Bay in Gouldsboro, Angera said. They also maintain a saltwater lab and production site in Port Clyde.

The partnership opens a world of possibilities for the future of local ocean farming, said College of the Atlantic alumna Teagan White, class of 2018, whose senior project explored the possibilities for aquaculture at College of the Atlantic.

"Aquaculture is a growing industry in the global economy, and this has been especially visible in Maine," White said. "Seaweed is currently one of the smallest sectors of aquaculture, but there is a lot of interest in it as a nutritious source of food, fertilizer, and potential environmental remediator of greenhouse gases and agricultural runoff."

White added that student interest in aquaculture is high. "This partnership is an amazing opportunity for the students to get involved and get their hands salty," he said.

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