The grants, announced Tuesday, will fund 18 projects to boost seaweed or marine biomass farming. The grants are designed to help make the U.S. a top producer of macroalgae, or seaweed.
Macroalgae can be utilized as a feedstock for domestic transportation fuels, chemicals and other commercial products without competing with food crops for land and water. Seaweed could furnish as much as 10% of our demand for transportation fuels, officials said.
Among the grant winners are the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of California (Irvine and Santa Barbara), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of New England and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The team from Southern Mississippi will use its $500,000 grant to develop a semi-autonomous enclosure to contain free-floating Sargassum mats. Wave-powered tugs operated remotely by one person on shore will move the enclosure to ensure maximum exposure to nutrients.
The system is designed to never return to shore. The enclosure can be moved in case of storms or ships. It can also be moved into “dead zones” where excessive nutrients can be taken up by the seaweed to improve oceanic health.