Seaweed Hatchery and Selective Breeding Technologies

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Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Project Term:
06/15/2018 - 06/14/2024

Technology Description:

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution leads a MARINER Category 5 project, to develop a selective breeding program for sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima, one of the most commercially important kelp varieties. The goal of the project is to improve productivity and cost effectiveness of seaweed farming. The breeding program will build a germplasm library associated with plants that produce a 20% to 30% yield improvement over plants currently in the field. By using a combination of novel rapid phenotyping, genome-wide association studies, and genome prediction methods, the team expects to accelerate the production of improved plants while decreasing the number of costly field evaluations. The project will conduct sampling and testing at field sites in New England and Alaska. If successful, the team will establish a breeding program that increases the quantitative genetic knowledge and genomic resources necessary to make informed breeding decisions — enabling the first step towards domestication and economically viable production of sugar kelp for bioenergy production in the United States.

Potential Impact:

If successful, MARINER projects strive to develop the tools needed to allow the United States to become a world leader in marine biomass production for multiple important applications, including the production of biofuels. 


Production of biofuels and bioenergy from domestically produced marine biomass could ensure that the U.S. has at its disposal a scalable, domestic source of low-carbon energy supplies.


Growing large amounts of macroalgae would not compete with land-based food crops, requires no fresh water and can be grown without the addition of energy-intensive, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Large-scale macroalgae cultivation may help reduce the negative effects of nutrient overload and ocean acidification in many coastal ocean regions.


A domestic macroalgae industry would not only create a valuable new source of domestic energy, but also create significant new economic and employment opportunities in many waterfront communities along the U.S. coasts from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Pacific Islands.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Simon Freeman
Project Contact:
Scott Lindell
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Cornell University
University of Connecticut

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