ARPA-E funds UCI-led study of kelp farming

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy has awarded $1.8 million to UCI oceanographic engineer Kristen Davis to study offshore kelp cultivation. “Macroalgae are fast-growing and highly versatile; they can be used for feedstock, fuels, chemicals and many other commercial products,” said Davis, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering and Earth system science. “My goal with this research is to assess new cultivation techniques and procedures to optimize productivity and to also understand the impact of the practice on coastal ecosystems.” Joining Davis are collaborators from UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project and Catalina Sea Ranch, a private aquaculture startup. According to Davis, a well-designed kelp farming operation is based on thorough knowledge of the interplay among currents, surface waves, turbulence, canopy architecture, nutrient availability and other processes. She said she plans to bring experts from various fields together to develop a strong computational framework that can be effectively utilized to set up and deploy macroalgae farms.