“Production and economic assessment of giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera cultivation for abalone feed in the south of Chile” (Correa et al 2016)

Citation: Correa, T., Gutierrez, A., Flores, R., Buschmann, A., Cornejo, P., and Bucarey, C. (2016). “Production and economic assessment of giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera cultivation for abalone feed in the south of Chile“. Aquaculture Research, 47, pp. 698-707. DOI: 10.1111/are.12529

Summary By: Alexandra Pounds

Image Credit: Flickr

  • Big Picture: Farmed kelp for abalone feed in Chile has higher levels of protein. With 30 hectares of production at $78/tonne, the farm would be profitable and return investment within the first year.
  • Abalone farmers in Chile feed kelp to their stock, because other studies have show that it is a better food source for abalone growth. Unfortunately, wild kelp is only available seasonally. Kelp farming is a potential solution to the demand for kelp and prevent overharvesting wild kelp populations. This paper examines whether or not kelp farming in Chile is profitable.
  • Methods:
    • The researchers designed and installed a kelp farm off the coast of southern Chile. They started with 2.4 hectares for 2 years to establish whether the crop would survive the winter season. Afterwards, it was increased to 4 hectares.
    • The researchers used 2 trial units (one in summer, one in winter) to extrapolate annual expenses and yields for a bigger farm.
    • The farm relied on manual labor for picking and planting crop.
  • Results:
    • If the market price for kelp is $78/tonne, a return on investment can be made in the first year by harvesting 30 hectares. The farm would be profitable within one year.
    • Best profitability would be at 50 hectares per year.
    • Protein content of harvested kelp was 9%, which was significantly higher than wild kelp in the area.
    • The summer crop produced significantly greater biomass than the winter crop. Both crops together could produce about 41kg per meter of rope per year.
    • Production costs for 2 harvests (one year), of 10 hectares was $109,396.
      • Fixed costs = 13%
      • Variable costs = 87%
  • Implications
    • Kelp farming in southern Chile could be a profitable way to feed farmed abalone.
    • Placing kelp farms around Chilean salmon farms could increase yield due to higher nitrogen levels in the water. This would have the additional benefit of reducing environmental impacts of the salmon farms.
    • Current kelp prices are not high enough to support farms that produce less than 30 hectares.
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