Highlightsof Extension TYI NG RESEARCH TO REAL LI F E COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE, H EALTH AND NATURAL RESOURCES aspect of domestic seaweed production and processing. Since the majority of seaweed domestically produced is from wild-harvest, it has been unregulated. There are guidelines ensuring seafood, meat, dairy, and other agricultural com- modities are safe for human consumption. However, we don’t have similar guidelines for cultivated seaweed. This presents a problem for state regulatory agencies that are trying to ensure the seaweed grown in Connecticut is safe. Sea Grant and UConn Extension partnered with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Aquaculture to develop guidelines that allow locally produced seaweed to be grown and sold in the state. This guide contains handling, storage, and processing guidelines for both species of seaweed grown in Connecticut. Seaweed can grow quickly and in large volumes, requiring harvesting be done all at once. Since seaweed has a short shelf life—it starts to degrade within hours, it must be used right away or processed into a form that will last. Local chefs desire raw kelp since it is fresh and unprocessed, but it has a very short shelf life. Kelp has also been processed into noodles and sold to a limited number of restaurants and retailers in the region. In 2013, Sea Grant assisted the Bureau of Aquaculture in approving the first commercial seaweed grower to sell fresh kelp and kelp noodles as food. This involved providing development funds testing the safety of both forms of kelp and seafood safety knowledge to determine appropriate handling, storage, and process- ing guidelines. The seaweed grower has now expanded to a large-scale commercial kelp processing facility in New Haven, Sea Greens Farms; that can accommodate seaweed produced by other growers in the region. Although guidelines have been developed for raw and kelp noodles, they have not been developed for dehydrated or dried seaweed. Sea Grant is working with a local food manufacturer to conduct drying experiments to determine if there are any potential hazards associated with dehy- drating seaweed. Although experiments are ongoing, preliminary results indicate that as long as the seaweed is stored and handled properly, it should be safe to eat. Additional experiments are being conducted to determine if the summer seaweed, Gracilaria, is suitable for human consumption when cultivated in Connecticut’s coastal waterways. Gracilaria can remove heavy metals and other chemicals from the water, making it a great candidate for nutrient bioextraction to clean up waterways. However, there is no data showing that it is safe for human consumption. Currently, only Gracilaria cultivated in indoor tanks can be sold as food, since growing conditions can be controlled ensuring product safety. Experiments analyzing Gracilaria grown in Connecticut waters are underway to determine its feasibility as a food product. Additional barriers under investigation include expanding markets for local prod- uct and the successful transition of kelp seed-string production from research labs to commercial-scale. Although the produc- tion of seed-string has begun to shift into the hands of commercial seaweed opera- tions, it is not fully independent and at the same level as the shellfish aquaculture industry. An extensive seafood marketing survey this summer will assess awareness and consumption of Connecticut seafood and seaweed among residents. Although the potential for seaweed aquaculture in Connecticut is huge, there are constraints to rapid expansion. The domestic seaweed aquaculture industry is still in its infancy and it is yet to be deter- mined if it will become more than a niche commodity. Overcoming these constraints will take time, as with any new product. However, this new crop may contribute to sustaining and creating new jobs as well as providing additional ecosystem services for Connecticut’s coastline. “...this new crop may contribute to sustaining and creating new jobs as well as providing additional ecosystem services for Connecticut’s coastline.” 2016 HIGHLIGHTS OF EXTENSION 7