Between May and August 2022 more than 100 seaweed farms were visited and 94 interviews were conducted across 15 different regions in the main seaweed producing countries. We got first-hand insights on their highly diverse production systems and conditions between seaweed species, countries and national regions.
The main objective of the study was to compare how commercial seaweed species are farmed today and provide practical insights that will help identify and verify innovation opportunities for – and investment opportunities in – the global seaweed sector.
We travelled and collected in-field data from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan and gained insights on China remotely. According to official global production volumes, these countries (including North Korea) account for 98% of total farmed seaweed production today.
In most countries, we visited at least three of the highest producing farming regions to collect representative data and to highlight the differences between geographies.
All data were gathered using visual observations and conducting verbal interviews with farmers on-site or in case of China remote communication methods (1).
The farmer often represents a farming household or company and all interviews were conducted with at least one family member or company representative. Beyond farms, we also visited input suppliers, local collectors and traders, processors and exporters, as well as research institutes, local NGOs or government agencies to cover most players in the supply chain.
The sites visited were selected based on how representative each species was in their production region and guided by at least one local industry expert.
We sincerely thank all farmers and individuals who participated in this survey. We also thank the industry experts, local guides and professors that supported the preparation and revision of this report.
The report covers the top 5 types of commercial seaweed groups or genera, which together account for ~95% of global seaweed production in 2020 by volume (in tonnes wet weight).
- Eucheumatoids = Eucheuma seaweeds nei, Spiny Eucheuma, Elkhorn sea moss
- Saccharina = Laminaria japonica, Saccharina latissima, Laminaria digitata
- Undaria = (Wakame), Undaria pinnatifida
- Pyropia = (Nori or laver), Pyropia tenera, Porphyra spp., Porphyra columbina
- Gracilaria = Gracilaria gracilis, Gracilaria verrucosa, Gracilaria ssp.
For all five species groups, we visited the farmers and their sites to collect data on site selection, farm design, seeding, grow out, harvest, post harvest and sales processes of the particular seaweed crop. Additionally, we gathered socio-demographic data on each farmer and ask them about their challenges, expansion plans and wishes for their farm.
On the following 9 farm insights pages you can dive deeper into each step of the process and learn more about the farmer’s background.
Explore the seaweed cultivation system step-by-step, with insights from 100+ in-field interviews:
Each page will show a table summarising data we collected on the site visits. The information we have provided consists of practical insights, which are largely lacking in existing research papers and have not been published in a consolidated format as presented here. At the same time we want to highlight that these are selected data points, that we chose to be most valuable to demonstrate the current status of the particular farming process.
Additional information and explanation on the data provided can be found below each table. We took as many pictures as possible on these visits to support the data presented in a more visual way, with limitations due to weather conditions and off-season travels for some of the species. Hence, some of the pictures were kindly provided by researchers and local experts supporting our field visits.
Note on limitations
- Due to persistent travel restrictions, we could not conduct in-field visits in China. All information presented here about Chinese seaweed production is based on expert interviews and communication with approximately 30 local farmers via Wechat.
- Some individual seaweed species have been summarized under the 5 seaweed species groups presented here, (see Global production page for complete breakdown of species) . Therefore some particular methods or datapoints with regards to unique seaweed species may not be reflected properly.
- This report does not cover every technological, biological or economical aspect of the farming process and is merely a first-hand insight into the most common methods of seaweed aquacuture.
- Furthermore, while our insights show the differences in technology use across the six countries, only data from farms that we believed to be representative for each country is presented. Please note that some of the techniques used in different regions are partially pertinent (and suitable) to the local in-situ conditions and readers should be aware of this when making their own assessments.