Seaweed cultivation in the USA: a cleaner that tastes good too

As of: October 21, 2021 6:39 p.m.

Green and slimy: Seagrass growing is a new US trend with great benefits. More and more fishermen on the US east coast are also planting seaweed. The algae are not only becoming more and more popular in the kitchen – they also purify polluted sea water.

By Franziska Hoppen, ARD-Studio Washington

Whenever he can, Seth Barker drives his motorboat out into the picturesque bay of Clark Cove. There is no one far and wide here. Only the rocks overgrown with pine trees surround the turquoise sea. The 74-year-old pursues his great passion here. And it is hidden under the water.

Franziska Hoppen
ARD-Studio Washington

Barker loves the seaweed – the seaweed. He has been planting these green, brown shimmering algae here for four years. They can be processed into snacks, creams and soaps. Seaweed is versatile. Barker has stretched ten long strings under the surface of the water, like clotheslines on an acre and a half. The spores of the algae attach themselves to it and later grow into thick stems with slimy leaves.

“This food production has little impact on nature and is incredibly productive,” says Barker. Because of course: Seaweed does not have to be watered or fertilized.

Algae clean water from waste materials

In return – by the way – it is also good for the water, explains algae scientist Susan Brawley: “Because they need a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus, like any photosynthetic organism, they can clean the water of waste materials.” Algae are something like the vacuum cleaners of the seas. “And,” says Brawley, “algae absorb CO2. That is why they also help to reverse acidification in the oceans.”

2500 dollars per ton of seaweed

Like trees, algae convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. And once grown, seaweed is practically a sure-fire success. In good conditions, it can grow several inches a day. Barker harvests up to 18 tons a year – just with his few “clotheslines”. And the selling price per ton is around $ 2,500. More and more fishermen in Maine are therefore including seaweed in their offer, as cod, shrimp and sea urchins are less and less common. No other aquaculture is growing as fast in the US.

Change of location: One and a half hours from Clark Cove Bay is Maine’s small capital, Portland. Josh Rogers has his business here on a side street: Heritage Seaweed. The shelves with seaweed tea, seaweed jerky, seaweed creams and soaps are stacked in two rooms. Rogers, in a lumberjack shirt and three-day beard, is a kind of seaweed disciple: “It’s this strange, very old form of life. It’s not an animal, it’s not a plant. It’s not a fungus. What is it? It’s algae!”

And they taste strange: fishy, ​​like caviar, and pungent, very salty and also bitter, like black tea, but somehow also sweet. Umami is what the Japanese call this strange fifth flavor.

From Rogers’ point of view, it’s about more than taste. In a world in which water is becoming increasingly scarce, says Rogers, and growing fruit and vegetables more difficult, seaweed could one day ensure food safety in the future: “If you compare any vegetable to seaweed, the seaweed typically has around ten times more Minerals than the vegetables. ”

And Barker also raves – time and again. “Kelp is the new kale” is the motto in Maine for a reason: seaweed is the new kale. And finally, finds Barker on his boat in Clark Cove, the approximately 250 different species that occur naturally on the coast of Maine impress with something else: “They just look beautiful.”

Green and slimy: Seaweed cultivation is a new US trend with great benefits

Franziska Hoppen, ARD Washington, October 21, 2021 5:52 p.m.

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