Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution to Develop Breeding Program for Sugar Kelp


In the future, homes and vehicles could be powered by fuel from seaweed. Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) are working to make that scenario a reality sooner with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

WHOI was awarded a $5.7 million grant from ARPA-E's Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources (MARINER) Program. The grant will cover two projects that would develop tools and technology to advance the mass production of seaweed for biofuels.

Seaweed is primarily used in food and food processing for humans and animals, and mostly comes from imports or wild harvests. Expanding seaweed farming relieves pressure on wild stocks and would create jobs. Larger production will then lead to expanded markets, including feedstocks for biofuels.

One of the projects will see a team of seaweed biologists, geneticists and entrepreneurs aiming to develop a breeding program for sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima), one of the most commercially important species of seaweed, using the latest breeding technologies. The breeding program will also build a library of genetic resources associated with plant traits that could improve plants.

The remaining $2 million will be used to develop an autonomous underwater observation system for monitoring large-scale seaweed farms for extended periods of time without human intervention.


This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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