Kelp is the Underdog of RI’s Aquaculture Industry

Lindsay Green-Gavrielidis is teaching people to appreciate seaweed.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Kelp being harvested in Point Judith Pond. Dr. Lindsay Green- Gavrielidis holds a sample of the harvested kelp. Cindy West, right, pulls up lines of kelp for harvest. Photography by Hugh Markey

Seaweed Savior

Lindsay Green-Gavrielidis is teaching people to appreciate seaweed.

If you’re reading this at the beach (and you should be), it’s right near you. If you brushed your teeth today, you’ve had it in your mouth. If you’ve had ice cream, or even a beer today, you might even have it inside you. It’s seaweed, and University of Rhode Island postdoctoral researcher Lindsay Green-Gavrielidis thinks you should enjoy it. 

Her current work involves growing kelp, the long belt-like seaweed, at places like Point Judith Pond, and she’s a big fan of the stuff that a lot of us don’t like to see. 

“It’s something that’s really underappreciated,” Green-Gavrielidis says. “Kelp and other algae are at the base of the food web; everything from shellfish to sharks make use of energy gained from seaweed at some time in their lives.” Seaweed aquaculture is growing at a rate of 5 to 10 percent a year worldwide, and Green-Gavrielidis sees kelp research as cutting edge. She’s working in partnership with Cindy West of South Kingstown’s Moonstone Oysters as part of a project to figure out where kelp grows best. 

Kelp has roughly the same fat content as spinach and is deemed a “sea vegetable” in some restaurants. It also contains a compound called alginate that can be used as a thickening agent in products like ice cream. Pawtucket’s Foolproof Brewing Company even released a beer last summer, Forecast Chapter 2, that included kelp, which they described as “a beer from the ocean that’s perfect for the beach.” 

Green-Gavrielidis chose to focus on seaweed in part because she feels it doesn’t get the positive attention it deserves. “You have more of a chance to champion something that needs to be championed,” she says. “We need to spread the love about seaweed!”