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Rhody Wild Sea Gardens

The Challenge

 Kelp farming is a nontraditional crop that faces challenges including strict regulations, tricky seasonal conditions, and growing the market. 

The Approach

 Rhody Wild Sea Gardens partners with other aquaculture businesses to collaborate in advancing the kelp aquaculture industry and science, building market channels for kelp in the animal agriculture sector to supplement and offset traditional grain use, contributing to the bioplastics industry, and discovering the best ways to incorporate local kelp as a soil amendment in RI agriculture.

By The Numbers

Since Rhody Wild Sea Gardens’ creation in 2020, there has been a significant movement to minimize the effects of climate change. They participate in the GreenWave Kelp Climate Fund, contribute to research innovation at URI, and have sold 500 pounds of kelp for soil amendment on RI farms. 

  • Rhody Wild Sea Gardens currently produces 2,000 lbs of kelp with every harvest.

Preserve and Grow Agriculture & Fisheries Industries

This initiative is working to ensure that the sugar kelp farming market expands and harnesses its properties to combat climate change while providing vital ecosystem service to RI waters. 

Program Description

Rhody Wild Sea Gardens calls kelp “the superhero of the sea”. Led by Azure Cygler, Rhody Wild Sea Gardens is growing sugar kelp and educating people about its “super powers” right here in Rhode Island.

The small-scale kelp farm partners with a number of other groups including Social Enterprise Greenhouse, The Sugar Kelp Cooperative, GreenWave, Stonington Kelp Co., New England Sea Farms, and URI’s Animal Agriculture Professor Maria Hoffman. They also partner with several restaurants and businesses during Kelp Week which is an event that promotes kelp by highlighting its versatility, nutrition, and sustainability through culinary creations. 

Kelp is used for a variety of climate-positive purposes including animal feed supplements, soil additives, food for humans, bioplastics, and biofuel. Supplementing animal feed in cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry with sugar kelp can reduce methane production by these animals, improve their welfare and overall health, and reduce the carbon footprint that the traditional grain industry creates. Together through The Sugar Kelp Cooperative, they team up in delivering feed and kelp for gardens to reach new markets and technologies, and eventually build lasting, sustainable markets for these products.

Rhody Wild Sea Gardens and the Sugar Kelp Cooperative have extended to other businesses to recommend and provide sugar kelp as food, feed replacement, soil fertilizer, and bioplastics. This farm and others are working towards partnering with larger businesses to replace harmful substances in the environment. The more Rhode Island is aware of the benefits of sugar kelp, the more it will be prioritized as a crucial crop to our state and beyond.

Future Plans

Rhody Wild Sea Gardens is hopeful that kelp will be included in the many farmer-benefiting programs through USDA and that a lasting climate fund model will be established for local and regional kelp farmers.

This story was prepared by Alexis Thompson.