Seaweeds as Agricultural Crops in India: New Vistas

  • Abhiram Seth
  • M. Shanmugam


The seaweeds are a diverse group of large marine macroalgae that are important to coastal marine environment like land plants to the terrestrial world. These are primary producers and like land plants support other marine life through the production of oxygen and contribution to marine food webs and by providing structure and habitat for fish and other faunas. Historically, coastal peoples have relied on seaweeds for food, minerals, medicine, insulation, fertilizer, and fodder. Today, seaweeds are a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide, providing food, fertilizers, nutritional supplementation, and valuable phycocolloids like agar, carrageenan, and alginate. Although wild harvest supports a significant portion of the seaweed industry, there is an ever-increasing amount of seaweed production from aquaculture to meet the current demand. Seaweed aquaculture makes up a significant portion of organisms cultured worldwide (~19 million metric tons) with a value of ~US$5.65 billion. Aquaculture production is dominated by kelps (Saccharina japonica and Undaria pinnatifida), tropical red algal species (Kappaphycus and Eucheuma), nori (including Porphyra and Pyropia species), and the red algal agarophyte species known as Gracilaria. China is the world’s top producer of cultured seaweeds, though other countries in Asia (Japan, Korea, and the Philippines) and in Europe (France, Ireland, Norway, Scotland, and Spain) also grow seaweed.

The red seaweed Kappaphycus alvarezii (previously called Eucheuma cottonii) is the major source of carrageenan, a hydrocolloid used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, etc. Since its natural stock became scant, cultivation of this seaweed was first started in the early 1960s in the Philippines to meet the world demand. Later, Kappaphycus farming was introduced to Indonesia, Malaysia, Tanzania, and Madagascar. The current annual world production of K. alvarezii is about 200 KMT, and its value-added product carrageenan is about 50,000 MT year−1. In India, commercial faming of K. alvarezii was commenced in 2001 in Tamil Nadu. While fish-catching is diminishing day by day and income is not predictable in these days, K. alvarezii farming has become real alternative livelihood to the coastal people of Tamil Nadu. The average monthly income of a cultivator ranges from Rs 15,000 to 30,000 based on his efforts and volume of cultivation area which he operates.

Extract obtained from fresh form of K. alvarezii is a rich source of potassium with other micro- and macronutrients. It has also naturally occurring growth hormones and amino acids and is capable of improving crop yields of a variety of crops anywhere from 15 % to 40 %. This provides a first ever opportunity to the farmers to have access to organic growth boosters at an affordable price in India. Other products manufactured from K. alvarezii are different grades of carrageenan and animal feeds. Farming and processing of K. alvarezii or any seaweed is the first of its kind in India.


Brown Seaweed Seaweed Extract Seaweed Species Seaweed Farming Natural Stock 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer India 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AquAgri Processing Private LimitedManamaduraiIndia

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