Charles Yarish, professor at University of Connecticut’s (UConn) Department of Marine Sciences, has made supporting the growth of the seaweed farming industry in the US Northeast a personal mission. With funding from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant to develop an environmentally and economically sustainable sugar kelp aquaculture industry in southern New England from seed to market, he has developed seeding and growout techniques in his lab at UConn and on farms on Long Island Sound. He has shared his expertise with other researchers and people who wanted to begin seaweed farming, and now, collaborating with Dr. Jang Kim and the Gaya Skinner Co. of Busan, Korea, he has helped design an affordable, versatile kelp (and other seaweeds) cutting machine.
Yarish says he got the idea for the machine when he was in Korea and saw a machine that had been designed to cut squid. “When I saw that, I saw an application,” he says and when he returned to his lab at UConn, he and Kim (who has since moved to take a university position in Korea) got to work.
It can process 500 kilos per hour and can also be fitted to produce flakes.
The unit is about 3ft by 3ft by 2ft and fits into a vehicle, making it easy for seaweed farmers, harvesters and processors to use either individually or in collaboration. The cost varies, depending on the number of cutting assemblies ordered, but will be under $10,000, shipping included.
“We’re focused on kelp,” Yarish says, “whether wet or dried, but it can also be used for other seaweeds.”
Presently, Yarish will serve as contact person for orders. “It’s part of our responsibility under the grant we’ve received from USDA NIFA,” he says, “to make sure there are no problems between potential buyers and the company.”
Yarish, believes that “an open source mindset is the only way to get things really hopping in the seaweed industry in the US. We need to make all of the technology readily available.” He is enthusiastic about putting this additional piece of the industry infrastructure in place.
— Muriel L. Hendrix