Nutrient Bioextraction


Marine nutrient pollution, caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as ocean acidification caused by increasing carbon dioxide entering water bodies, are significant threats to coastal environments, water quality, and overall human health. Kelp farming can contribute to the removal of nitrogen and carbon from the water column. Although (in the US) some entities are compensated for reducing carbon emissions or nutrient discharge loads, kelp farmers are not part of any compensation scheme. Multiple initiatives, driven by academia, private industry, and NGOs are exploring possible ways to compensate farmers for nutrient (and carbon) removal services. One way is adding kelp farming within environmental or water quality credit trading programs.

To date, despite the growing interest of farmers in the removal capacity of their farms, there are limited opportunities for them to quantify any removal. As such, this project is dedicated to developing a toolkit for farmers.


Develop cutting-edge research and a state-of-the-art toolkit that will enable the systematic collection of samples to quantify nutrient bioextraction capabilities of kelp farms across large latitudinal scales.


 1. Develop a systematic tissue and sample collection toolkit aimed at kelp farmers.

 2. Determine the productivity and nitrogen and carbon extraction by farmed sugar kelp in the US coastal waters.

3. Conduct training and dissemination workshops.



Assemble a toolkit and conduct training with kelp farmers

•Design and create an illustrated protocol

•Test different materials

•Test the effectiveness of the kit in the lab and field

•Assess shipping options

•Conduct hand-on training with all participants

Sample processing 

•Assess the quality of the samples

•Process tissue and water samples 

•Identify failure points and design correction methods

Nitrogen and Carbon analysis

•Determine farm productivity and measure the % of N and C content of kelp tissue

•Assess the consistency of results

 Commercial opportunities

•Make the toolkit a commercially-available product

The project is been conducted in close collaborations with 10 sugar kelp farmers from the East (New England) and West (Alaska) coasts of the United States. All of them have played a key role, as it is due to their willingness to help that all sampling has been possible.

Initial funds for this project have been provided by ARPA-E (DOE) as part of the MARINER program.

                   FUTURE DIRECTIONS

  • Determine carbon and nitrogen removal by kelp

  • Measure the potential for C sequestration when kelp is processed as fertilizer

  • Determine the source of N used by different kelp farms

  • Examine differences driven by site and species specifics

Partners and collaborators

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