Cultivating Marine Biomass
Source: UC Santa Barbara
One of the most productive organisms on Earth, giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) depends on nutrients from the surrounding water column to maintain its photosynthetic apparatus and maximize growth rates, which can reach a foot and a half a day.
Such prolific growth makes giant kelp an excellent candidate to replace corn as a biofuel. While this species naturally grows close to shore, it easily could be farmed in deeper waters. This is the focus of a new project called Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources (MARINER), which seeks to develop offshore kelp farms to produce kelp biomass as a novel energy source.
A team of UC Santa Barbara scientists will receive $2.1 million over three years from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to develop and test technologies that monitor large-scale giant kelp farms. Led by David Siegel, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Geography and the campus’s Earth Research Institute, the team will combine and refine existing technology to enable farm managers to carefully monitor kelp beds and maximize yields.
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