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ARPA-E Projects

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University of Southern Mississippi (USM)
Program: 
Project Term: 
07/02/2018 to 07/15/2019
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Project State: 
Mississippi
Technical Categories: 

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) will lead a MARINER Category 1 project to design and develop a semi-autonomous enclosure, called a seaweed paddock, to contain and grow mats of free-floating Sargassum, a brown seaweed species native to the eastern Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. One of the major cost drivers for production of macroalgae is the expense of the farming equipment, particularly anchors used to hold the farms in place in a particular spot in the ocean. Unlike most kelps, Sargassum does not require anchoring to a fixed structure, but rather will grow as a floating mat at the ocean surface. By leveraging this feature, the USM team will reduce the equipment and cost required to produce this seaweed. The system's Sargassum mats are enclosed by a floating sea fence that can be dynamically positioned by wave powered drones, operated remotely onshore by a single person to ensure maximum exposure to nutrients while avoiding ships and storms. Ocean health is improved in these areas where the collection of mats use excess nutrients in ocean deadzones, reducing ocean acidification while increasing dissolved oxygen levels from photosynthesis. Over the course of a yearlong mission that never returns to shore, the system could grow over a hundred thousand tons starting from a single ton of seaweed.

University of Southern Mississippi (USM)
Program: 
Project Term: 
06/29/2018 to 07/15/2019
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Project State: 
Mississippi
Technical Categories: 

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) will lead a MARINER Category 1 project to design and develop a novel, robust seaweed growth system capable of deployment across the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. The technology will enable precise positioning of large farm structures to maximize productivity and actively avoid surface hazards such as weather or marine traffic. The seaweed will grow while affixed to support ropes strung between concentric rings. The structure will have automated buoyancy compensation devices to optimize depth minute-by-minute for maximum light intensity and minimum wave impact, as well as automatically lowering during storms or to allow large ships to pass over it. Automated adjustments can include "dives" into deeper, nutrient-rich, zones to access nutrients at depth during the night. If successful, the system will minimize structure cost per dry metric ton and risk by sinking to avoid storm forces, while leaving nothing on the ocean surface to interfere with shipping traffic or other ocean stakeholders. The project team will also investigate autonomous systems capable of returning to its home port for harvesting when not roaming thousands of miles offshore.