Seaweeds have been harvested in California by Indigenous peoples for millenia, but seaweed farming is a relatively new endeavor. The industry began in California in the 1970s with the first land-based seaweed tanks to provide feedstock for abalone and has slowly developed to now include several coastal and one offshore project. Interest in seaweed farming is growing, as a panel discussion at the California Seaweed Festival held in San Diego in early November explored. I had the opportunity to moderate the panel on “starting a seaweed farm in California,” which discussed the state of seaweed cultivation in California and provided insights about the increasing interest in this field.
Beyond food for human consumption, the applications for seaweed are diverse: medicines and cosmetics, methane-reducing feedstock for cows, bio-plastics and other biodegradable materials, and biofuels. In addition, there’s a growing body of evidence that farming seaweed can be net beneficial to the environment, supporting conservation and restoration goals (as our recent WSN Special Session on Restorative Aquaculture examined).