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The rain is pouring down, and colder weather is on its way. That means the weather is perfect for putting out new kelp cuttings. Harald Sveier, Lerøy Seafood Group’s technical manager, has every reason to smile in 2020. A massive 50,000 metres of rope covered with cuttings is being lowered into the sea, and by spring it is expected to produce around 300 tonnes of sugar kelp. That represents significant growth for the company.
Lerøy is investing heavily in cultivating kelp through the Ocean Forest project, and the kelp it produces won’t just be used as a raw ingredient for biogas and bioenergy. It can also be turned into packaging to replace plastic and used as a source of food for both humans and animals thanks to its high content of vitamins, minerals and iodine.
The sugar kelp that will grow below the sea surface over the next months has many purposes, with one of the most important being to improve animal feed.
It turns out there are many benefits to using kelp in animal feed.
- With our last harvest, we simply ran out of kelp when demand from the international market picked up. That’s not actually surprising. Kelp is a fantastic product to use in animal feed, both for the environment and for animal health. It increases the survival rate of piglets, by improving their gut flora. We call it the yoghurt effect. Yoghurt is good for human digestion. Kelp has the same benefit for piglets, says Harald Sveier.
Using kelp in animal feed doesn’t just make financial sense, it also makes environmental sense. Putting fermented kelp in feed reduces the methane gas produced by ruminants by an impressive 30-40%. The enzyme inhibitors in the kelp reduce the production of methane gas, thus lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Ruminants are currently responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions produced by farm animals, which represents a major environmental challenge.
- Using kelp significantly cuts emissions, which is important for the planet. In other words, it makes animal feed climate-friendly, says Sveier.
Ocean Forest makes aquaculture greener, and it has enormous potential for the future. Or as Sveier puts it:
- It’s hard to imagine a more sustainable method of production, as it doesn’t use any fresh water, pesticides, fertilizers or land. Also remember that kelp absorbs six times as much CO2 as the Amazon rainforest, as well as phosphorus and nitrogen.
The cuttings that are put into the water are two millimetres long, but when they are pulled out of the water in spring they will be up to two metres long. They are harvested before they become contaminated by other species attaching themselves to the leaves, so they are completely clean when they are sent on to the next stage of production.