PETIT DE GRAT: A project examining the viability of establishing a seaweed aquaculture industry in Cape Breton received funding from the federal government last week.
On February 12 at Université Sainte-Anne in Petit de Grat, Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner announced $248,816 in funding to the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia (AANS) through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.
“Whenever you can get corporate Canada aligned with some government dollars, where there’s a greater public good, I think that’s a good thing,” Cuzner told the crowd.
Noting the presence of industry partners Premium Seafoods, Louisbourg Seafoods and Bounty Bay Shellfish, as well as government and community partners, Cuzner was encouraged by the commitment to work together.
“Targeted investments, key investments in innovation, in marketing, those are essential for businesses to succeed and communities to continue to grow,” the veteran MP noted. “We have to be innovative. The companies that are involved there now, I think they’re recognizing… the huge potential in the seed plant market and what’s ahead.”
Pointing to the potential in ocean plants, and the research that’s been done, Cuzner said this is public money well spent. As proof, he pointed to the iodine, minerals and vitamins found naturally in plants like sugar kelp. A press release from ACOA noted that seaweed has applications as a food, in nutraceuticals and cosmetics, natural health supplements, and agricultural fertilizers.
“The benefits from those types of plants are seen throughout our economy,” Cuzner said. “Sugar kelp has a promising cultivation potential as the technology to produce seeds to grow kelp has already been proven quite successful in other regions.”
Over the next three years, the AANS will conduct on-site trials and explore market opportunities for the products they develop. The onsite trials for this project will take place at sites owned by Bounty Bay Shellfish, Louisbourg Seafoods/Cape Breton Bivalve Inc. and in Arichat with Premium Seafoods
Dr. Isabelle Tremblay, research and development coordinator with the AANS, said the project has great potential for her group, the businesses involved and the entire aquaculture sector.
“For shellfish farmers, you can start seaweed cultivation using the existing infrastructure on your lease, and with little change or little adaptation, you’re able to tap into a new resource and… diversify your aquaculture with little investment,” Dr. Tremblay explained.
She said seaweed is an important, emerging market around the world, there are plenty of resources in Nova Scotia and people are looking for good quality products.
Bond Jonas, with Premium Seafoods, said she is “very excited” to be part of this new opportunity and for the Isle Madame company to continue working with the Marine Research Centre in Petit de Grat.
She said with a closed shrimp plant in Arichat, Premium is exploring ways to renovate the facility to now process seaweed.
“The fisheries in Arichat area have been declining over a year or so and Premium has been reaching out trying to put feelers out for any new opportunities,” Jonas said. “Sea vegetables are very new for us. We have scallops on site. We’ve been doing scallops for several years now and sea vegetables would help us increase the bounty of Arichat harbour and employment in this area.”
The three-year project will be broken up into two branches, Dr. Tremblay noted. One will be a seaweed cultivation trial, the other part will develop a viable commercial roadmap.
The AANS also developed a collaboration with Merinov, a group from Québec, for the seaweed cultivation trials. Merinov has expertise in the development of seaweed aquaculture for commercial purposes and will play an active role in the project.
Dr. Marie Lionard, industrial researcher with Merinov, will be working with all partners during the research phase using the knowledge acquired from research conducted over the past five years in Quebec. She said there are environmental differences (weather, water salinity) between Nova Scotia and Quebec which must be taken into consideration, but using sugar kelp will help mitigate those challenges since researchers are already familiar with that sea plant.
Dr. Lionard explained they will start with seeds in the water in autumn and let them grow over winter, while researchers analyze the seaweed and monitor its growth. Because of weather changes from year-to-year, she said it will be helpful to grow the seaweed over multiple seasons. She added they will also be trying to grow other species in coming years like dulce.