Jan. 10, 2023
Somewhere off the coast of South Africa, a small, inflatable fishing vessel motors out a mile or so in search of a mature seaweed forest. The crew is there to harvest a unique brown kelp, Ecklonia maxima, for use in the agricultural market.
Ecklonia maxima, found only off the southwest coast of South Africa, begins its life by anchoring itself to a rock or another seaweed and begins its rapid ascent to the surface.
The abundant seaweed sends up a single stipe that can easily reach 30 feet and is coaxed to the surface by the plant’s large, buoyant, gas-filled bladder, or pneumatocyst, which also keeps a tangle of blades, or leaves, at the surface to aid photosynthesis.
An Afrikelp crew harvests surface leaves from the giant brown seaweed Ecklonia maxima. The painstaking process must be done manually in compliance with strict conditions set by the South African Department of Forestry.
It is this tangle of blades that the kelp harvester lifts to the surface for the exacting harvest process, which must be done manually and involves removing only the leaves floating on the surface, leaving the frond intact.
″Afrikelp has a concession where Ecklonia maxima is sustainably harvested in compliance with the strict conditions set by the South African Department of Forestry,″ said Joaquin Orellana, Afrikelp’s U.S. managing director and agricultural engineer. ″A forest of kelp supports many marine creatures and a rich ecosystem in this unique environment.″
The company was founded 50 years ago by Klaus Rottmann and became the first company to get the South African seaweed rights and established the nation’s first agar factory.
It was discovered that the seaweed, also known as giant brown kelp or sea bamboo, was a favorite food of abalone and soon became standard feed at abalone, oyster and mussel farms.
A couple of decades ago, Afrikelp entered the agricultural market as a biostimulant.
″We now have a presence in more than 40 countries where it is marketed as liquid seaweed concentrate,″ Orellana said.
Biological testing shows that the product benefits agricultural plants several ways.
″This unique extract contains essential natural components that increase yield, enhance the quality and improve the growth performance of your crops,″ Orellana said. ″Afrikelp is highly mixable with other materials and can be applied as a foliar spray, dip or drench and through any irrigation system.″
Agrikelp’s versatility allows for application on a range of crops that include fruits and nuts, grains, seeds and vegetables. The recommendation will depend upon the effect that can be achieved and the crop’s phenological stage.
Forests of Ecklonia maxima, found only on the southwest coast of South Africa, yield essential components Agrikelp derives for its liquid concentrate geared to enhance the performance of agricultural crops. Only surface leaves are harvested to maintain the kelp’s sustainability and its role in this unique ecosystem.
″For us, quality control is key and that means a standardized product,″ Orellana said. ″The concentration of organic compounds in kelp varies from one batch to another and we analyze each batch.
″Our quality control process is very important in making sure that every batch meets exceptional standards to ensure the best product to our customers.″
Though the product has long been available on the worldwide market, Afrikelp didn’t start its U.S. operation until 2015. It is based in Fresno, Calif.
The 4th Biopesticides, Biostimulants and Novel Fertilizers International Summit (BioEx 2023) will take place on 9th & 10th March in Hangzhou, China. We are pleased to invite speakers from the commercial, research, extension, government, regulatory and farming sectors to submit your proposals and abstracts for oral presentations.
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