Location: Rhode Island
Collaborators: Graduate School of Oceanography (University of Rhode Island), Roger Williams University, as well as many Rhode Island shellfish farmers
Goal: Provide a model for the Rhode Island aquaculture industry that informs site selection of kelp-shellfish integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA).
Significance: Incorporating cold-water seaweed crops, such as the sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima), into existing shellfish farms requires minimal equipment and maintenance, and can benefit farmers by increasing and diversifying crop production.
Background: While shellfish aquaculture is somewhat established in the U.S., seaweed cultivation has only begun to gain popularity despite it being valued as a $6.4 billion global industry. There is, however, growing interest in seaweed aquaculture in the Northeast U.S. and there are now commercial-scale kelp farms and kelp-shellfish integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) systems in the region. While kelp and shellfish have been cultivated in these IMTA systems, success has been context-dependent; the placement of kelp-shellfish IMTA systems may be based on the availability of space as opposed to optimal design and environmental conditions. This highlights the need to critically examine factors that influence productivity and growth of shellfish and kelp when grown together, as well as the potential environmental benefits so that appropriate locations may be identified and established.