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Ocean forest
Cultivating large volumes of kelp to improve the environment
The unique components in kelp may be a future source of energy, both for humans, animals and vehicles.
Harald Sveier (on the left), Managing Director of Ocean Forest AS, and Anders Karlsson-Drangsholt, senior consultant for fish farming in Bellona, on board to harvest kelp. The goal for next year is to multiply the harvest volume by almost six, from 17 tonnes in 2016 to 100 tonnes.

In October 2016, ropes measuring 13,200 metres and carrying kelp seeds were set out near to Lerøy's salmon cages in the island municipality of Austevoll in Hordaland. During the winter, these seeds grew to lengths of one and a half metres, and 17 tonnes of kelp were harvested in 2016. The harvest volume increased to 40 tonnes in 2017. The target for 2018 is to more than double this figure, i.e. 100 tonnes.

Cooperation with Bellona
For many years, Lerøy has enjoyed a close cooperation with Bellona. Plans were developed in 2015 for integrated fish farming, and Ocean Forest was founded. Integrated fish farming, also known as multitrophic aquaculture, implies co-cultivation of several species from different parts of the food chain. Ocean Forest cultivates mussels and large volumes of kelp in what resembles a rain forest under the water. The project aims to use those products we have in excess in order to produce those products of which we need more. The world needs more biomass as raw materials for food and renewable energy to cater for a growing population.

Diverse utilisation
The kelp cultivated for now in Hordaland can be used fresh, but can also be dried – almost like chips, fried, grilled and boiled. The kelp can be used in oil, stocks and marinades, and has a flavour that goes particularly well with fish. It is also excellent flavouring, as kelp spices. 

Kelp may also take on a more important role within an industry that has been so important for the Norwegian economy. In fact, sugar kelp contains as much as 50 percent carbohydrates, an excellent raw material for biogas, biodiesel and bioenergy.

– This is a very sustainable source of energy that is readily available when we need it. With that in mind, we can claim that the market for kelp is infinite, confirms Managing Director of Ocean Forest, Harald Sveier.

Negative carbon emissions are an ambitious goal, but still achievable
HARALD SVEIER, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF OCEAN FOREST AS

What started out as a project in cooperation with Bellona has developed into an independent company that cultivates kelp and mussels to absorb phosphorus, nitrogen and CO2 from fish swimming in cages.

– These are resources that are not utilised. In discussions with Bellona, we realised how we could capture these resources, integrate them into the production cycle and make good use of them. Kelp absorbs large volumes of CO2 and we can now confirm that what we are doing is effective, states Harald Sveier.

Three assignments
The potential for kelp to become a new food trend in the future is not the only reason to establish and continue the project. The project itself is based on three assignments laid down by the Board of Directors:

  1. Firstly, to capture phosphorus, nitrogen and CO2 released by fish in fish farms. This is achieved by cultivating sugar kelp and mussels on ropes surrounding and underneath the cages. These species live on phosphorus and nitrogen, and kelp also absorbs large volumes of CO2.
  2. Secondly, to create raw materials that are edible for humans and animals. Kelp can be consumed in a number of ways, as can mussels. The soft part of the mussels can be used as a fishmeal replacement in fish feed, thus becoming a natural part of the production cycle. These are organisms that are close to the bottom of the food chain – implying that they only need water and sunlight to survive, and do not require either feed or chemicals.
  3. Thirdly, to establish new species within aquaculture. This must be an industrial and economically sustainable project, meaning that the company must be able to generate revenue from the production of mussels and kelp, and their utilisation for animal feed, in the future.

Facts about Ocean forest

  • A cooperation project between Lerøy and Bellona, where mussels and kelp are cultivated alongside fish farms to improve the environment.
  • In 2016, the volume harvested was 17 tonnes of kelp. This figure increased to 40 tonnes in 2017. The target for 2018 is to more than double this figure, i.e. 100 tonnes.
  • If kelp cultivation is to become a viable industry, Ocean Forest will have to cultivate minimum 1,000 tonnes of kelp per year.
  • One major goal in the long term is to reduce carbon emissions. In other words, the emissions of carbon, principally coming from boats and fish feed, shall be zero or negative.
Anders Karlsson-Drangsholt from Bellona pulls bags packed with sweet tangle over the deck during the harvest in Austevoll in April 2017.

Ambitious goals for the future
One major goal in the long term is to reduce carbon emissions. In other words, the emissions of carbon, principally coming from boats and fish feed, shall be zero or negative.

– We are committed to making our industry as sustainable as possible, while at the same time aiming to gain a profit. Ocean Forest is part of a larger objective to ensure that fish farming has the smallest possible eco-footprint, explains Harald Sveier, adding:

– Negative carbon emissions are an ambitious goal, but still achievable.