Seaweed Cultivation: Unlocking the Potential of the Oceans

Earlier this year the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UN FAO) organized a field visit for the United Nations Youth Advisory Panel (UNYAP) to the Northern Province to observe the various agricultural practices currently in function there.

On the second day we drove up to Pooneryn to meet two young men who showed us the seaweed cultivation that has been pioneered by Hayleys and hailed as the future - blue industries. It turns out what I thought was just a slimy green thing is a much demanded products, used in a many way including as a food additive, in cooked food, cosmetics, waste water treatment, as bio fuel and more!

What really caught my attention was the entrepreneurial angle it creates for young people in the region, especially in a situation where climate change is creating more and more issues for them to pursue the more traditional agricultural practices. The training and initial investment required to venture into seaweed cultivation is relatively low in comparison to the returns.

Oh and also as this info graphic shows - seaweed improves the global food system

Here are some of the numbers (all of which were provided to me by Haleys):

  • Currently Hayleys Seaweed Project provides an additional income to over 1000 farmers with a target to reach 5000 farmers by 2016
  • The cycle is as follows - 60kg of seeding per raft --> after 45 days it yields 260kg of fresh produce --> 60kg is used for reseeding and 200kg is fresh yeild --> and after processing each raft process around 20kg of dry matter --> a beneficiary can earn Rs 30,000 per harvesting cycle with 30 rafts
  • The current price of 1kg of dried seaweed is Rs 45 and with 45 rafts and a harvesting period of 45days a farmer can earn up to rs 324,000 annually
  • Initial Investment for Seaweed Farming (Raft Culture)
Cost per raft Rs. 3500/-
Cost per seedling material/ raft Rs. 500/-
No of raft per farmer 45
Total cost Rs. 180,000/-
Maintenance cost per raft Rs. 400/-
Total cost for maintenance per year (10%) Rs. 18,000/-

Two of the cultivators  - Danecious and Jebastian took us out in boats to show us the seaweed growing, and explained that the same cannot be done in still tanks since the slight movement of water and fish nibbling on the seaweed is all necessary. They then took us to see the dried seaweed which is then sold to Haleys who in turn sell it to companies for processing.

Danecious's story especially fascinated me and reminded me that young, innovative people exist all over this country in different circumstances. What often sets them apart from each other is the lack of opportunity and access,

Shortly after the war ended, the area in which he lived had no electricity. What this enterprising young man did was take a loan out to purchase a generator and then run a small makeshift movie theater, charging Rs50 per ticket, He found himself doing quite well and was very miffed when electricity was finally given to the area - crashing his business! Now he finds himself doing very well with the seaweed cultivation which is a part time business allowing him to explore other options as well.

A consistent remark/point of discussion I have noticed that comes up when the topics of youth and economic opportunities are discussed is; the fact that despite the agriculture industry holding many opportunities it is an unpopular choice. The counter response is that it needs to be made 'sexy' and appealing - and perhaps this is just what seaweed cultivation may achieve. It is new, exciting, can be promoted with an international angle and importantly gives returns.

I wonder - is the future we see on the horizon of the agriculture industry - blue? 

(Side Note: Hayleys shared with me some fascinating info graphics and information about seaweed cultivation so expect a follow up post with more information on that)


really happy about the post.I am an undergraduate in Aquaculture has a certain knowledge in seaweed culture & I want to check whether this culture can be establish in southern sea to empower the rural life
Unknown said…
Hi Shanaya,

Can you please share me your email address to get more details about this article.

My email address is

thanks in advance,

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