What Seaweed Farms Look Like From Space

NASA Earth Observatory
NASA Earth Observatory / NASA Earth Observatory

Our pals at ThisisColossal turned us on to these beautiful satellite pics of South Korean seaweed farms. See the faint green checkerboard pattern in the water? Those are just some of the seaweed farms that dot South Korea’s southern coast. But how do farmers get the seaweed into those pretty lines? Amazingly, much of the cultivation of seaweed is done on ropes. Farmers tether the crops to the lines, and then attach them to buoys so that the strings of seaweed get maximal sunlight without being dragged along the bottom of the ocean in rougher tides.

NASA Earth Observatory

Clearly, the system works: according to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Flickr page, “the south coast produces about 90% of the country’s seaweed crop.” And because the crops don’t require any fertilizer or fresh water, they have a very low impact on the environment.

In fact, when we talked to Bren Smith, a former fisherman who switched lines to ocean farming in Long Island Sound in New York, he praised the efficiency of the business. According to Smith, "All you need is 22 feet of water, deep or shallow. There's really low overhead, and you can easily scale up if you do some local ecosystem analysis." In fact, Smith can grow 24 tons of kelp in a 300-by-300 foot area in just five months (he's working with chefs to create a market for kelp). And with the size of the global seaweed industry at $7.1 billion and growing, and with most of the farms being based in Asia, he expects more Americans to get in on the action.

h/t ThisisColossal.