Future of Farm
We asked each farmer about their ambitions to expand and the main reasons that limit their farm’s potential growth. Farmers were also asked to list the major production challenges they face on a daily basis, as well as their needs or wishes that could help improve farming activities. The answers paint a picture of the industry in real time and provide valuable insights into technology gaps and innovation opportunities.
Explore The Farmer by Species
The top three challenges across all Undaria farming regions we surveyed are the changing ocean environment, overcrowded farm spaces and rising labour costs.
Across all countries and regions it has become clear that there is an urgent need to develop processes with a higher level of automation or mechanisation. Fewer people are willing to do physically demanding farm work, and labour costs are rising and challenging the profitability of farms. New and efficient systems that utilise labour saving technologies across all processes are desired by all the farmers we surveyed.
Many of the family farmers we spoke to did not have concrete plans for the successor of their farms. In order to expand, farmers in South Korea and China would have to move further offshore which makes the farming process more expensive and requires new technologies. Moreover environmental feasibility studies are required for new farm sites.
Breeding: In South Korea, there is a strong effort to develop temperature tolerant strains, primarily to extend the growing season beyond December and August. This would make abalone feed available in September and October. Japanese and Chinese farmers are looking for strong and high-yield cultivars. There are strong collaborations between industry and research institutes to breed high quality cultivars.
Hatchery level: The development of mechanised devices and equipment, such as seedling curtain weaving machines, automatic curtain brushing machines, automatic light adaptation systems and rope stretching devices to partially replace manual devices in different production steps is needed.
Seeding: Different innovators have tried to mechanise the process of attaching the seedlings to the culture rope and several patents exist for such devices. However, the work efficiency has been lower than manual methods and reduces yields.
Grow out: The environment is emerging as a major concern, and farmers mentioned that they are looking for early warning and forecast systems that describe the changing conditions of their farms. Furthermore, the offshore work during the winter (mostly the thinning out) is done manually and can be rough due to harsh sea conditions.
Harvesting: In many regions, the harvesting process is purely manual and is physically demanding work. Labourers typically work more than 10 hours a day carrying out the repetitive harvesting process.. A big barrier to innovation is the lack of standardisation across farm units, rope lengths and site conditions. In South Korea, the harvesting process is semi-automated, but the quality is often diminished.
Drying: The drying process is a major bottleneck for the industry due to the short time window when biomass is collected and brought to shore. The traditional method of outdoor drying is cheap, yet highly dependent on the weather. Drying indoors requires a lot of space (only for a short time), is labour intensive and often requires significant energy.
Products: Farmers in Japan complain about the price of Saccharina and would like to learn how to create more value from seaweed and get better prices. The Chinese industry is looking to create higher value products through bioactive material extraction.