GROTON, Conn. (WTNH)– Right off the shore at UConn’s Avery Point seaweed grows and it’s edible.
“So this is native sugar kelp and this is what grows naturally in Long Island Sound,” explained Anoushka Concepcion, an aquaculture extension specialist with Connecticut Sea Grant.
The kelp she showed News 8 grew wild at Avery Point in Groton but there is also a growing number of commercial seaweed farmers in the state.
Connecticut Sea Grant will use a 2 million dollar federal grant to fund two aquaculture projects. One will establish a national seaweed hub.
“Sharing ideas across state lines I think would really benefit everybody because everyone can learn from one another,” said Concepcion.
There are seaweed farmers in Connecticut and nine other states.
The commercial growing season for seaweed in Connecticut begins in late fall when the seedlings are placed on the lines which are strung under the water. They’re not harvested until between April and June depending on the water temperature and light.
Since 2011 fourteen seaweed farms have been permitted but only four harvested seaweed this past season.
“So some of the major challenges that we’ve identified is that there is lack of markets for domestically produced seaweed, there’s also lack of processing and safe storage facilities,” said Anoushka.
In addition, there are challenges with the permitting process. Shell fisherman share those same challenges which is why the grant money will also fund an effort to help them navigate federal regulations and educate new farmers.
“There’s so many different options,” said Concepcion. “How you can grow them and where you can get seed from?”
The process can be overwhelming even though that industry has been around for decades and supports 300 jobs in the state.
“Generates well over $30-million and it’s growing,” said Concepcion.