Commercial seaweed farming started in most geographies 50 years ago and is still a very labour intensive sector. It provides multiple jobs along entire coastlines. In most regions seaweed farming is still a family activity where women play a substantial role. In other cases, corporate structures have developed around the industry.
Explore The Farmer by Species
In Japan and South Korea, Saccharina farming is done by farmers who belong to the local fisheries cooperatives. In the North of China, mostly large scale companies are involved in farming operations. Farmers associations play a minor role here or are not functioning at all.
In South Korea, farmers typically belong to a “fishing village contract” and have private farms. However, these types of farms, especially in the Southern province of Jeonnam, can be large scale with several employees. However, similar demographic developments as in Japan make it more and more difficult to find enough labour locally. Here labour ‘only’ accounts for about 30- 40% of the total production costs.
In Japan, all farmers are cooperative members, while everyone has their own unit where they work. Almost all farmers run small operations in a family-based household industry. The participation fee of being part of a farmers cooperative is 2,000 USD. This will be paid back once the farmer leaves the cooperative. Farmers are getting extremely old and many of them don’t have a successor.
The companies in China have to employ many workers as operations are large and rely on manual labour for farm tasks. Certain tasks are physically demanding and workers often have to work day and night during peak season. Labour costs have been increasing rapidly (a farm worker currently earns about 28,000 USD or 200,000 yuan annually). In China, labour costs make up 50-70% of the total cost.