The Current, NMI Blog, Northeast Maritime Institute Blog


NMI Aquaculture program receives SEMAP T.I.E. award

The NMI aquaculture program has been awarded a 2022 Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP) Technology, Innovation, Excellence Award (T.I.E.). The award will support our research to better understand the variables and potential of growing sugar kelp in the New Bedford aquaculture region. The SEMAP T.I.E. award “encourages local farmers to trial new equipment, implement farm systems, and address challenges farmers in the region collectively face. Farmers are innovative-they come up with creative ideas for the problems they experience day-to-day on the farm. With the T.I. E. award funding, SEMAP aims to enable our local farms to create solutions locally, and share the solutions with the region’s farming community to increase local knowledge, capacity, and resilience.”

Sugar kelp is an up-and-coming “super food” aquaculture product for human consumption, bio-fuel, carbon sequestering (for atmospheric carbon reduction), animal feed, and as an additive for certain types of cosmetics. Kelp grows best in nutrient-loaded, cold, and clean seawater. The kelp industry is developing in areas around the Northeast. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island kelp farms are few and far between while the Maine kelp industry is expanding rapidly.

The Port of New Bedford is eager to develop economic aquaculture opportunities for growers in New Bedford waters regions BB-13 and BB-14. Within the SEMAP T.I.E. grant, kelp test seed lines will be deployed in various locations to test the viability of growing kelp in Buzzards Bay waters during the next kelp growing season (occurring November 2022- May 2023). Kelp seed spools allow for juvenile kelp to “grow out” to harvestable maturity should the dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, water quality, salinity, and temperature be appropriate for growth.

The University of Massachusetts School of Marine and Science Technology (SMAST) is onboard to collaborate in the sugar kelp growing research. SMAST has offered logistical support as a test site for one of the kelp growing locations. As well, SMAST professor Dr. Changshen Chen has been contracted by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MADMF) to conduct circulation mapping of the New Bedford Waste Water Treatment plant outfall. While the discharge from the NBWWT plant may increase nitrogen levels (beneficial for growing kelp), there are understandable concerns that pathogens are being introduced into the aquaculture growing areas. The MADMF and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH) have regulatory food safety concerns regarding contaminated sewage outfall (CSO) impacts in aquaculture set-aside regions such as BB-13, BB-14.

Coincidentally and complementary, URI Professor Dr. Hongjie Wang is directing her upcoming research to monitoring real time kelp inputs (dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, salinity, temperature, phytoplankton levels, carbon reduction) in the Point Judith Kelp farm located at Point Judith, Rhode Island. The data results from Professor Wang’s research result will supply better understanding of dynamic kelp ecosystems. Her research will help to provide a better understanding of the necessities for successful kelp husbandry.

With the 2022 SEMAP T.I.E. award will test, evaluate, and better understand the important variables required to grow sugar kelp in the New Bedford aquaculture region of Buzzards Bay.

Sugar Kelp at Point Judith Kelp sea farm.

Click here to learn more about NMI’s Office of Restorative Aquaculture.

David Bill

Restorative Aquaculture Program Director
Scroll to Top