£44k Marine Fund Scotland award to support seaweed farm biofouling

Image of seaweed on rocksWe are delighted to announce that we have been awarded funding by Marine Fund Scotland (MFS) to support a project where environmental DNA will be investigated as a tool for the prevention of seaweed farm biofouling.   This research will benefit our Seaweed farm collaborators Kelp Crofting and the broader industry. Our goal is to develop environmental DNA biomonitoring as a tool to predict biofouling in seaweed mariculture. Seaweed farming offers a zero-input production system with multiple potential environmental, health and social benefits including, CO2 absorption, biodiversity enhancement, sustainable production of healthy food ingredients, pharmaceuticals and health supplements, and the creation of jobs to sustain coastal communities.

Seaweed farming is a rapidly developing industry worldwide. In the UK and Europe, however, it is in its infancy and characterised by small farms producing <10 tonnes of wet seaweed a year. A primary limitation of seaweed farming is biofouling from small snails, shrimps and non-desirable seaweed species. Biofouling organisms settle on the seaweed from the surrounding water as microscopic larvae or spores. Once settled, it is a challenge to separate these organisms from seaweed.  This in turn reduces the product market value.  

Rapid and sensitive assessment of biofouling settlement potential from the plankton is a key tool that will enable more reliable planning of kelp production. Innovative methods combine the study of environmental DNA (eDNA) with microscopy techniques to help inform successful interventions. Our Aquatic Ecology Lab of Glasgow University, in the framework of this MFS project, will be developing eDNA based solutions for seaweed aquaculture. Our team has already demonstrated that eDNA monitoring could provide early warning of infectious disease outbreaks in finfish aquaculture (Peters et al. 2018), such as harmful algal blooms as part of ongoing BBSRC/EPSRC-funded work.

Meet the Project Team

Maria Alguero-Muniz

Maria Alguero-Muñiz

Sofie Spatharus

Sofie Spatharis

Martin Llewellyn

Martin Llewellyn

Kyla Orr

Dr Kyla Orr Scientific Director and Co-Founder of KelpCrofting

Eleni Christoforou

Eleni Christoforou

Bachar Cheaib

Bachar Cheaib

 


First published: 30 November 2021

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