Seaweed aquaculture project picks up Port of San Diego approval

Board of Port Commissioners continues its “Blue Economy” initiative with ecological pilot program.

SAN DIEGO — A company seeking to demonstrate the potential of seaweed aquaculture as a source of environmental sustainability and fish farming will receive $137,000 from the Port of San Diego as part of a pilot project under the district’s “Blue Economy” program.

The Port of San Diego’s Board of Port Commissioners formally approved sunken Seaweed’s pilot program application on July 17. The firm hopes to “demonstrate the feasibility of seaweed aquaculture in San Diego Bay.” Port district officials award Sunken Seaweed funding for one year.

Funding for the pilot program was part of the port district’s “Blue Economy” incubator, now in its third round of proposals.

“Sunken Seaweed is an aquaculture start-up company led by two marine ecologists committed to pioneering sustainable, seaweed aquaculture in San Diego Bay. Sunken Seaweed is pursuing to establish a seaweed pilot farm in San Diego Bay to cultivate, outplant, grow, and harvest several species of native marine macroalgae as a culinary product, and eventually take to market via direct sale to chefs, distribution companies, and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies,” port district staff told commissioners in a report.

Staff with Sunken Seaweed proposed to use existing pier pilings, ropes, buoys, and anchors to demonstrate the feasibility seaweed aquaculture in San Diego Bay.

“During the proposed pilot project, Sunken Seaweed will cultivate, outplant, grow, conduct biological surveys and measurements, and harvest several species of native marine macroalgae,” port district staff stated in a report to commissioners. “Additionally, Sunken Seaweed will collaborate with kelp ecologists from San Diego State University to optimize kelp farm structure, growout methods, and harvesting techniques.

“The pilot farm will contribute valuable baseline information to inform future potential of seaweed aquaculture in California,” port district staff continued, adding the global commercial seaweed market was worth $10 billion in 2015 and should reach $22 billion in value by 2024.

Developing the domestic production and uses of seaweed would include human and animal food production, biofuels, carbon sequestration and mitigation banking.

Sunken Seaweed could propose new projects to the port district if its one-year pilot program is successful.

San Diego’s port district awarded Sunken Seaweed its one-year pilot program as part of a “Blue Economy” initiative, which has been in place since 2015.

“The [port] district’s Blue Economy incubator represents a launching pad for innovative projects by providing aquaculture and blue tech entrepreneurs with key assets and services focused on pilot project facilitation such as permit-ready infrastructure, entitlements, market access, and strategic funding,” port district staff stated in a report to commissioners.

Port district staff has received and reviewed more than 80 proposals as part of its Blue Economy program.

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