A Cordova group visits to EcoCascade in Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland in May 2024. Photo courtesy of Melissa Good

From May 4 to May 12 an Alaskan delegation of seaweed farmers visited Scotland to learn more about different technologies and processes in the industry. 

Local Cordovan kelp farmer Sean Den Adel of Noble Ocean Farms joined Max Stanley with Barnacle Foods and Melissa Good with the Alaska Sea Grant, as well as three industry representatives from Connecticut, on this international tour of the seaweed industry. Den Adel was representing Chugach Regional Resources Commission for which he serves as the Prince William Sound mariculture liaison.  

Their mission was to exchange knowledge between the American and Scottish seaweed industries. The visit began and ended in Glasgow, Scotland, and the group of Americans visited Fife, Oban, Isle of Mull, Isle of Skye, and Kyle of Lochalsh in Scotland as well.  

“The trip highlighted the fact that U.S. and Scottish seaweed industries have numerous similarities, including shared challenges, like processing and markets,” said Den Adel. “Coastal communities historically dependent on commercial fishing, in Alaska and Scotland alike, are experiencing changes in viable economic opportunities.” 

Den Adel said their visit highlighted the similarities and shared challenges between American and Scottish seaweed industries, including processing and markets. He said coastal communities in both Alaska and Scotland are “experiencing changes in viable economic opportunities.” 

“The most valuable takeaways for me were related to seaweed processing: learning which pieces of processing equipment work well and which do not,” he said. “We got to tour active seaweed processing facilities and learn about kelp drying, milling, and storage. Seeing their processing lines and workflow gave me ideas about how we can process our own harvests here in Cordova.” 

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Den Adel said that despite the “countless challenges and barriers” to the development of the Prince William Sound kelp farming industry, over the past few years “major groundwork” has been laid out by a group of committed individual stakeholders, nonprofit organizations, and small kelp companies. He said looking ahead he is optimistic about kelp farmers’ ability to dry kelp to create consumer packaged goods with locally-grown kelp. This has been a common goal of Cordovan kelp farmers, but has yet to be attained due to lack of processing capacity.  

“I think it will take a couple more years of deliberate effort to reach this goal and develop a sustainable kelp farming industry in Cordova, but I am optimistic that our collective efforts will pay off,” he said. 

The visit was hosted by Alaska Sea Grant, Connecticut Sea Grant and the Scottish Seaweed Industry Association. NOAA Sea Grant provided funding. Good, an Alaska Sea Grant Mariculture Specialist, and Anoushka Concepcion with Connecticut Sea Grant received the funding and coordinated the event. 

Good said that her major takeaways from the visit were the importance of collaboration, how critical continuous innovation and adaptation are, expanding product lines and markets to provide financial stability and growth, and educating the public and policymakers about the benefits of seaweed farming. 

She explained that Scotland has a burgeoning seaweed industry, with similar barriers to growth including “developing efficiencies in automation and energy conservation in both harvesting and processing.” 

Good said during the tour the group learned about automated systems significantly reducing labor costs, incorporating mechanized equipment such as conveyors, techniques to help reduce the overall carbon footprint such as utilizing heat recovery systems, and the use of biostimulants.  

“Visiting kelp farmers and processors on the Isle of Skye and Isle of Mull showed me that we all have similar challenges, as well as similar aspirations to benefit our coastal communities,” said Den Adel. “It was uplifting and inspiring to meet like-minded entrepreneurs who are actively working to develop mariculture opportunities.”

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