At community-owned Aird Fada Seaweed Farm in Loch Scridain, the 6km of Saccharina Latissima (Sugar Kelp) that we seeded in October is growing very well. We are currently making plans for different processing options and markets for our first crop in April/May.
But why farm seaweed? There are a number of reasons - both economic and environmental. In the first instance, the farm generates local employment - we have already employed a project officer and created sub-contract opportunities with members of the local fishing fleet. Working with local fishermen for seeding, maintenance and harvesting has allowed us to benefit from their skills and expertise while providing them with an injection of income. The first year of harvesting will fund next year's seeding, with the aim of increasing capacity year on year to create a profit-making business. As with SWMID's other projects, profits generated by Aird Fada will be re-invested in the seaweed farm or in other community benefit projects.
Environmental benefits include carbon capture: as seaweed grows it absorbs dissolved CO2 from the surrounding waters. From a study published by J. B. E. Thomas et al published in June 2020, 1 tonne of harvested sugar kelp captured 39.6 kg of Carbon, which is equivalent to 145 kg of CO2 mitigation.
By farming seaweed we can protect wild stocks – wild kelp forests are well established and provide a very biodiverse ecosystem; by farming kelp we prevent the need to harvest from wild forests.
Finally, there are a range of markets where the products from kelp can be used as a substitute for carbon intensive products such as: bioplastics, pharmaceuticals, biofuels. It can also be used in cattle feed and actually helps to reduce methane emissions.
Seaweed farming is an exciting industry to be a part of - particularly as our farm is led and managed by the community in which it is deployed, with all the benefits staying local.
To find out more, check out our Aird Fada Seaweed Farm project page!