Seaweed Paddock: Initial Modeling and Design for a Sargassum Ranch
This paper describes the “SeaweedPaddock” system to profitably grow and harvest open-ocean Sargassum sp. as a sustainable source of macroalgal biomass and biofuel. The US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) initiated the MacroAlgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Research (MARINER) program to develop technologies to eventually sustainably harvest macroalgae at 80 per dry metric ton (DMT). The University of Southern Mississippi team is characterizing an unmoored SeaweedPaddock; analyses include tow speed and energy required to avoid hazards, farm design to minimize biomass loss, economical harvesting, and nutrient supply. Initial results indicate that nighttime “smart towing” could allow the SeaweedPaddock system to produce macroalgae at full scale at costs below the ARPA-E goal provided that Sargassum grows at sufficient rates during the day after having been confined all night in a moving fence and that sufficient nutrients are made available. Cost projections for a successful, intensive, scaled system could be competitive with current prices for fossil fuels.