New Brunswick

Cooke Aquaculture looking at seaweed farms to feed future

The aquaculture industry in New Brunswick has been farming fish for years, but a new project in Saint John is starting to farm entire ecosystems as a new way to recycle and diversify the underwater farms of the future.

Growing different crops close to each other to make aquaculture more efficient

Thierry Chopin is the director of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture at the University of New Brunswick. ((Marine Chopin))

The aquaculture industry in New Brunswick has been farming fish for years, but a new project in Saint John is starting to farm entire ecosystems as a new way to recycle and diversify the underwater farms of the future.

Researchers are now growing kelp, or common seaweed, alongside traditional aquaculture pens, such as those filled with salmon.

Thierry Chopin is the director of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture at the University of New Brunswick and says the two species work well together.

"So the whole idea is your salmon is releasing these nutrients and the seaweeds are recapturing some of these dissolved nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus," he said.

They're growing different crops close to each other to make aquaculture more efficient.

"There's a certain amount of fish food that is not eaten by the fish,so that breaks down," Chopin said.

The wasted, broken down, fish-food is caught by the seaweed and the nutrients from it help grow the seaweed crop.

Once harvested, it can be used to feed those same fish.

No irrigation needed

"So it's all about recycling," he said. "Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture is all about recycling. Recycling on land we have no problem, why do we have a problem at sea?"

Cooke Aquaculture has no problem with it at all and has partnered with the researchers to farm different crops near each other to emulate nature.

Andrew Lively with Cooke Aquaculture says the bonus is that the crops don't need to be irrigated.

"One of the things that we know about kelp versus any other terrestrial plant is that it doesn't need to be irrigated," he said. "It doesn't need pesticides or herbicides, so it's a very sustainable way to produce a very nutrient-rich product."

Organisms like sea cucumbers and mussels are also a part of this strategy which Lively is hoping will see bumper crops in the years to come.

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