In this installment of TREC’s Research Report, you’ll learn about Dr. Ashley R. Smyth, an Assistant Professor in the UF/IFAS Soil, Water, and Ecosystem Sciences Department and her research.
Promoting emerging agricultural enterprises
UF/IFAS is committed to fostering integrated team science to address challenges faced by Florida and the world. To promote and grow emerging agricultural enterprises, the UF/IFAS Deans for Research and Extension partnered with the Senior Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources to provide Support for Emerging Enterprise Development Integration Teams (SEEDIT). Dr. Smyth is leading a SEEDIT to look at the possibility of establishing seaweed as a viable industry for aquaculture farmers in the State.
The idea is that seaweed has many uses and environmental benefits. Seaweed could serve as an alternative crop for shellfish aquaculture farmers whose operations can be shut down due to red-tide. In addition to being an alternative for shellfish farmers, the cultivation of seaweeds can improve water quality. Seaweeds store nutrients like nitrogen in their tissue, which is removed from the waterway at harvest. Since seaweed would remove nitrogen from waterways, it is possible that seaweed farmers could be paid for the environmental benefits of their operations.
Climate smart animal agriculture
Another potential use of seaweeds could be the production of a “climate smart” animal agriculture. Since certain seaweeds have compounds that, when ingested, may help cattle produce less methane, there may be potential for a greener cattle industry. Selling the seaweed to local cattle ranchers may be a new market for seaweeds produced in Florida’s waterways, if they have this compound.
With the proper incentives, seaweed could increase profitability for the shellfish industry while addressing nutrient pollution and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the livestock industry. For now, this research is still in the early phases, but one day we will report back to you about whether seaweed is a new aquaculture industry for Florida and if Florida seaweeds make for climate smart cattle.