November 18, 2018
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Bar Harbor college partners with seaweed growers in research lab

The country’s largest organic seaweed farm is partnering with College of the Atlantic to create seaweed seeds, the college announced Monday.

Springtide Seaweed’s Sarah Redmond and Trey Angera will use the new saltwater lab at the college’s Bar Harbor campus to isolate and culture seed stock for a host of North Atlantic seaweed farms, experiment with local cultivars, and host student projects and experiments in the emergent field of Maine seaweed farming, officials said.

In exchange for the space, Redmond and Angera will work to incorporate all aspects of seaweed production, distribution, and consumption into the college’s curriculum. COA is supplying the building and location, and Springtide is putting in the lab in the building that the company will be using.

This will include putting up some interior walls and installing a saltwater system that will pull water from off Bar Harbor, officials said.

“We are very excited and fortunate to be working with COA,” Angera said in a statement released by the college Monday.

“There are tremendous opportunities for students to learn and experiment with seaweed aquaculture, and having so many fresh eyes on our processes will offer us many chances to improve what we do,” he added. “It’s going to be a great collaboration.”

With the Gulf of Maine warming faster than 99 percent of oceans around the world and traditional Maine fisheries under threat, ocean farming is an important, sustainable practice with great potential, COA President Darron Collins said.

“Anything we can do to help the coast of Maine diversify economically, and especially through our sustainable resource economy, provides a bulwark against changing environmental conditions and warming ocean waters,” Collins said. “Sarah and Trey are the best in the business, and we are excited to have their help dreaming up and implementing all kinds of projects around this important type of work.”

The 600-square-foot lab will produce a sizeable amount of stock, Redmond said. One foot of string, seeded with 2mm plants in the lab, will produce up to 10 pounds of seaweed in the bay, she said. The facility will also contain a test kitchen and a small-scale tank aquaculture setup for year-round plants.

Springtide grows four types of kelp and are working on cultivating dulse and nori for local waters. Beyond fresh and dried seaweed, they also sell seasonings and prepared food products such as seaweed mac-n-cheese, popcorn and pickled seaweed stipes.

COA biology professor and associate academic dean Chris Petersen said that Redmond and Angera “provide breadth and depth in areas that we are interested in but really don’t have expertise, and they complement our work in marine conservation and climate change.”

Angera and Redmond are launching a state-of-the-art processing facility on the other side of Frenchman Bay in Gouldsboro, Angera said. They also maintain a saltwater lab and production site in Port Clyde.

The partnership opens many possibilities for local ocean farming, said College of the Atlantic alumna Teagan White, whose senior project explored the possibilities for aquaculture at COA.

“Seaweed is currently one of the smallest sectors of aquaculture, but there is a lot of interest in it as a nutritious source of food, fertilizer, and potential environmental remediator of greenhouse gases and agricultural runoff,” White said.

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