Project - MacroSystems
In response to a call for proposals by the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) MARINER program through the U.S. Department of Energy, an international research team under the project name of MacroSystems, primed by Ocean Rainforest, Inc., has been asked to demonstrate the economic and social opportunities of offshore cultivation of seaweeds, specifically a species named Macrocystis pyrifera, aka Giant Kelp, in the U.S.
Launched in 2018, MacroSystems represents an international collaboration initiative of highly regarded researchers and entrepreneurs in the seaweed industry. By applying science, innovation and expertise in growing premium quality seaweed for sale and for research, the MacroSystems team intends to demonstrate the economic feasibility of commercial-scale seaweed cultivation in an offshore environment.
The main innovation components are to: use selective breeding to increase harvesting yield, and apply ground-breaking direct seeding on specially designed substrates to save time, energy and money in the hatchery phase. Furthermore, we plan to optimize M. pyrifera cultivation in the open ocean through site-specific adaption and techno-economic modeling of a proven offshore cultivation system. MacroSystems will also develop a new harvesting machine that will enable large scale harvest using minimum cost and time, and ensure maximum quality of landed biomass through low-energy storage-stabilization techniques.
MacroSystems’ goal is to demonstrate that the harvested macroalgae will contain five times the amount of energy relative to the amount of energy required to produce the biomass product. In addition to improved energy input to output ratios, our team is committed to supporting the local marine economy and improving ecosystem health in the Santa Barbara Channel. More specifically, our team intends to:
- Support the traditional fishing industry by creating fish habitat and therefore increasing local fish populations
- Improve the health of the marine environment by reducing the amount of excess nutrients in the water
- Encourage economic development in the local community by creating sustainable and reliable jobs
During the first year, our efforts will be focused in the development of the hatchery and evaluating the general performance of the cultivation system. At the hatchery, we will develop the protocols for all the proposed new technologies, meanwhile scaling up the gametophyte production necessary for the ocean trials in the second and third years.
- Deploy long-lines to de-risk and optimize the horizontal line depth
- Compare effectiveness of the different seeding methodologies used by Category 5 team (i.e. seeding string vs. direct seeding)
After the first year, we will move from the leased site to our new site in Santa Barbara. At this new site, we will deploy 24 long lines that will be used to carry out the rest of our research plan activities. During year 2, we will determine the best combination of grow line length and grow line spacing. We will also investigate the effect of seeding time and method over yield. Three different seeding times and three methods (continuous, propagule and dots) will be evaluated by comparing the performance of the different treatments.
- Determine the best combination of grow line length and grow line spacing
- Test three innovative methods: continuous seeding with glue, propagule seeding, and spot (dots) seeding
- Investigate the effect of seeding time and method over yield
In the final year of the research initiative, we will analyze various harvesting techniques to determine maximum yield and assess opportunity for rapid regrowth of partially harvested M. pyrifera. A Factorial design to evaluate the best harvesting strategy will be performed during the third year on previously seeded lines.
- Harvest biomass at two experimental depths below the surface
- Evaluate difference in yield and subsequent regrowth with three and four harvests per year