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Hatchery network key to grow $100m seaweed industry

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

A baby golden kelp (Ecklonia radiata) grown by the Kelp Lab in NSW is one species that could be the focus of the planned National Hatchery Network. Image: Kelp Lab

A national hatchery network is the centrepiece of plans to expand the emerging seaweed industry into a $100 million sector supporting 1,200 full-time jobs in regional Australia.

AgriFutures has released the Australian Seaweed Blueprint Implementation Plan, which prioritises research, development and extension (RD&E) activities for the next four years.

The Implementation Plan builds on the landmark Australian Seaweed Industry Blueprint report published by AgriFutures in 2020, and incorporates new insights from stakeholder feedback on the industry’s most pressing challenges.

Report author Ms Jo Kelly says it provides a map for sustainable growth and the creation of a high-tech, high-value industry. The plan outlines the major flagship initiative for the national hatchery network to accelerate industry development.

“Industry has identified that a major impediment to production is capability and technology for production of large quantities of clean, native seedstock,” says Ms Kelly.

“A national hatchery network will facilitate knowledge development and skill transfer to get seaweed growers focused on expanding cultivation.”

The plan suggests a 'hub and spoke' model for hatchery facilities and recognises that regional hatcheries are essential to manage biosecurity issues that may come with the movement of plant materials.

Propagation techniques are already being developed for several species at private, government and university laboratories, principally for Asparagopsis. Others species include golden kelp (Ecklonia radiata), southern kombu (Lessonia corrugata), giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), and bull kelp (Durvillaea potatorum).

AgriFutures program manager Dr Brenda Kranz says the Implementation Plan prioritises three key areas:

  • Leadership and Collaboration, including governance, policy and communications.

  • Production Capability and Scale, including the National Hatchery Network and Biosecurity.

  • Investment Innovation, including new products and technologies.

“Since the industry Blueprint was first released in 2020, AgriFutures has invested in a series of strategic RD&E projects to support industry achieving its goal of $100m in production by 2025,” says Dr Kranz.

“The plan now empowers the industry to take the next step in its growth with clear targeted priorities for future development activities,” Dr Kranz says.

It also recommends a review of pests, diseases and biosecurity challenges, as well as the need for a licensing toolkit to help businesses obtain ocean leases and aquaculture permits and navigate state-specific legislation governing the industry.

Ms Kelly says aquaculture policy is highly variable between states and can present a significant roadblock to commercial development. The plan outlines a pathway to achieving a national policy framework and facilitating states to create a progressive and risk-appropriate regulatory environment that recognises the benefits of seaweed aquaculture to marine environments.

The Australian Seaweed Implementation Plan was produced as part of AgriFutures Australia’s Emerging Industries Program, which focuses on new industries with high growth potential, including seaweed, and will be key to meeting changing global demands for agricultural products.

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