Faroe Islands-based Ocean Rainforest, a sustainable seaweed cultivator, announced that it has secured a €4.5M Technology to Market Plus Up award from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) as part of the MARINER Programme.
The milestone achievement marks significant progress in Ocean Rainforest’s commitment to advancing offshore giant kelp cultivation technologies in California.
Offshore seaweed cultivation is regarded as among the most sustainable and environmentally responsible forms of biomass production. Compared to land-based biomass production, which requires a significant amount of arable land and freshwater, seaweed cultivation does not require these resources.
Pioneering offshore seaweed farming
The Plus Up award is an extension of Ocean Rainforest’s Phase 2 contract and will allow the company to operate an 86-acre, offshore Macrocystis pyrifera cultivation testbed in the Santa Barbara Channel.
This effort allows the company’s team to pioneer the development and demonstration of high-yield macroalgal cultivation technologies in true offshore conditions.
Ocean Rainforest will test innovative aquaculture technologies such as automated and consistent outplanting, partial harvest technology, upwelling facilitated by system design, and automated monitoring along with other MARINER awardees.
By doing so, Ocean Rainforest will be able to advance the industry toward economically feasible open-ocean cultivation.
In addition, the Plus Up award will enable pilot biomass processing from the offshore site and facilitate process optimisation for target market segments, including biostimulants and functional feed ingredients that can reduce the carbon footprint in the food and feed supply chain.
Benefits of seaweed cultivation
In addition to being considered among the most sustainable forms of biomass production, seaweed farming is also seen as the least environmentally destructive form of aquaculture.
Seaweed’s role is essential in supporting marine biodiversity by providing shelter, protecting marine wildlife, and mitigating eutrophication by absorbing excess nutrients from sea water.
Furthermore, seaweed also provides resilience against localised ocean acidification, a global marine problem caused by the increased uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If unchecked, ocean acidification will make life much more difficult for marine organisms.
Olavur Gregersen, CEO of Ocean Rainforest, says, “We are grateful to our funders, project partners, and team for all their support and hard work in the context of this Plus Up award. This award from ARPA-E’s Mariner Programme signifies a powerful endorsement of our vision and dedication to creating a more sustainable future.”
Ongoing products and projects
Ocean Rainforest grows essential seaweed for manufacturing products in different industries, including cosmetics, food, and packaging.
The company’s current seaweed products include Saccharina latissima, Alaria esculenta, Laminaria digitata, Palmaria palmata, and Macrocystis pyrifera. All of these products are available for sale, except for Macrocystis pyrifera, which is currently only available for research purposes at the company’s site in Santa Barbara, California, US.
In order to commit to its goal of creating world-class and sustainable seaweed cultivation, Ocean Rainforest is currently involved with projects including SeaMark, MacroSystems, ULTFARMS, MAB4, Climate Feed, Iodecline, and AquaVitae.