Continuous, High-Yield Kelp Production

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Albany, California
Project Term:
03/16/2018 - 12/30/2023

Critical Need:

Marine macroalgae, also referred to as seaweeds or kelp, are a group of exceptionally diverse aquatic plants. Macroalgae can be found along nearly all coastlines around the globe and in some cases also in the open ocean. They have traditionally been used for food and feed, as well as fertilizer. In 2016, the world produced approximately 26 million wet metric tons of seaweed, primarily through highly labor-intensive farming techniques. While macroalgae production has increased six-fold over the past quarter-century, the current state of macroalgae “mariculture” is not capable of achieving the scale, efficiency and production costs necessary to support a seaweed-to-fuels industry. Dramatically increasing productivity will require significant advancements in the domestication of macroalgae and new farming technologies. To accelerate the development of critical tools and technologies, the MARINER program is supporting projects in five technical areas: 1) Integrated Cultivation & Harvest System Design, 2) Critical Enabling Components, 3) Computational Modeling, 4) Monitoring Tools, and 5) Breeding & Genomic Tools.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Umaro Foods (formerly Trophic), together with Otherlab and the University of New Hampshire, will lead a MARINER Category 1 project to design and develop a rugged and resilient offshore seafarm with high yield and low capital cost. The advanced design includes a passive, wave-driven upwelling system that brings nutrient rich seawater to the surface of the ocean, dramatically increasing yields (higher concentrations of nutrients exist in deeper ocean water). A robotic anchoring system will quickly and efficiently deploy environmentally friendly helical anchors into the seafloor with minimal disturbance to the seabed, allowing for high load anchoring capacity with low installation cost. To test a new marine mammal safety feature, the farm will be constructed of stiff composite fiberglass material instead of rope. The team will deploy an individual full-scale unit of the larger multi-module system in Saco Bay, Maine, in fully exposed ocean conditions. If successful, the system will produce high yields at a cost of less than $80 per dry metric ton.

Potential Impact:

If successful, MARINER projects strive to develop the tools needed to allow the United States to become a world leader in marine biomass production for multiple important applications, including the production of biofuels.


Production of biofuels and bioenergy from domestically produced marine biomass could ensure that the U.S. has at its disposal a scalable, domestic source of low-carbon energy supplies.


Growing large amounts of macroalgae would not compete with land-based food crops, requires no fresh water and can be grown without the addition of energy-intensive, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Large-scale macroalgae cultivation may help reduce the negative effects of nutrient overload and ocean acidification in many coastal ocean regions.


A domestic macroalgae industry would not only create a valuable new source of domestic energy, but also create significant new economic and employment opportunities in many waterfront communities along the U.S. coasts from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Pacific Islands.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Simon Freeman
Project Contact:
Beth Zotter
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Otherlab, Inc.
University of New Hampshire

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