Technologies Rural Technologies – CSIR 800

Farming of seaweeds and their value addition as an alternative livelihood for coastal fisher folk

Application / use:

Liquid fertilizer and gel forming polysaccharide kappa-carrageenan

Brief description and salient features of the technology / product:

Central Salt & Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI) has been engaged in seaweed related R&D work for many decades and several small scale industries manufacturing agar and alginate came up in the country with the technical support provided by this institute. Technology for liquid seaweed fertilizer (LSF) based on Sargassum was also developed by CSMCRI and licensed to a number of industries. Annual harvest of alginophytes (Sargassum and Turbinaria) is around 15,000 tons dry weight and that of agarophytes (Gracilaria and Gelidiella) is around 10,000 tons dry weight.  However, all of the work until recently has been with harvest of naturally occurring seaweeds, which has limited the scope and impact of seaweed farming. 

One of the most economically important seaweeds internationally is the red alga, Kappaphycus alvarezii, which yields a thickening agent called kappa-carrageenan having wide range of applications in a variety of industries.  The seaweed is cultivated extensively in Philippines and Indonesia. CSMCRI introduced the Kappaphycus alvarezii seaweed (alternatively known as Eucheuma cottonii) in India more than 15 years ago following the all quarantine protocols. After acclimatization and laboratory culture, the alga was introduced in the sea in confined conditions—employing a novel bag technology—initially in Gujarat coast and later on in Mandapam, Tamilnadu (US Patent No. 6858430, issued February 22, 2005).  Later the institute embarked on large scale (1 hectare) cultivation of the seaweed which culminated in the development of raft cultivation technology. Initially the technology was licensed to M/s. Pepsico India Holdings Ltd. (Pepsi) which is now transferred to Ms. Aquagri (P) Ltd, New Delhi and Indian seaweed industries, Vijayawada .  State Bank of India has also come forward to provide loans and the Govt. of Tamil Nadu is also assisting in every manner possible  Different Government agencies are providing financial support to promote the activity through systematic education and training on cultivation.
Raft method
A raft made up of bamboos of 10 cm in diameter and 3 m ×3 m size is used for cultivation. The angular portions are diagonally fixed with the help of supporting bamboos of 5 cm diameter in order to keep the raft structure intact. The raft placed in the sea is tied up with an anchor in clusters to ensure its buoyancy as well as protection from waves. Bottom netting to raft is done to minimize grazing as well drift of material. Seeding of the raft is done using 3 mm polypropylene rope. The seeded ropes are tied at both the ends to the raft parallel to each other at 15 cm intervals. Total 20 plantings of 100 grams fresh wt each is planted on each rope at regular intervals. One raft with 20 such ropes will have an initial seeding weight of 40 kg fresh wt (2.0 kg × 20). Silt or muddy deposition on the plant and growth of other epiphytic algae is removed periodically to ensure maximum growth.

Value addition/products

CSMCRI has been constantly engaged in R&D related to value addition. An important breakthrough was the invention of a process that yields two products from the seaweed instead of one.  The idea originated from a simple experiment that showed that the fresh seaweed can be liquefied through mechanical shearing, without addition of any water.  Preliminary experiments had also revealed the utility of the liquefied seaweed as a potential plant nutrient. Subsequently, it was realized that if the liquid is filtered, the residue can be utilized for preparation of carrageenan while the filtrate serves the purpose of plant nutrient.  The novelty of the idea was recognized through grant of a U.S. patent in 2005 (US Patent No. 6,893,479 dated May 17, 2005).  Following extensive trials on the sap – significant enhancement in the yields of potato (26%), sugarcane (30-40%), paddy (15-30%), etc., have been independently confirmed by leading agencies -- and development of technology for extraction of carrageenan from the residue, Aquagri acquired the knowhow from the institute. The company is now spearheading with massive cultivation and processing activities.

An important subsequent invention by the Institute was the development of biodegradable films and non-animal gelatin capsules utilizing the Kappaphycus alvarezii plant (US patent No. 7067568 dated Jun 27, 2006) and work is currently underway to evaluate the efficacy of the capsules in partnership with a pharmaceutical company.  Another important invention was the development of low sodium salt of botanic origin (US Patent No. 7,208, 189 dated 24 April, 2007) which has been commercialized. CSMCRI has also obtained US patent for a health drink prepared from the fresh Kappaphycus alvarezii seaweed.  CSMCRI has demonstrated that the alga can be cultivated in the Gujarat coast as well and aims to explore other locations such as

Salient features of the technology:

No need to use any pesticides and chemicals in the cultivation.

Kappaphycus cultivation is a boon for Indian agriculture, does not compete for land and requires no fertilizers, growth hormones, pesticide, insecticide, herbicide etc. It is also reported that the crops sprayed with Kappaphycus sap showed high pest resistance compared over control.

Novelty / innovation those differentiate us from others :

  1. Recovery of sap and kappa-carrageenan simultaneously from fresh seaweed.
  2. The sap has been proven to be a potential plant nutrient promoting the agricultural productivity significantly. Major raw materials or resources to be utilized:

Infrastructure and manpower requirement:  Rafts and four persons per hectare (167 rafts)

Status of the technology:  Commercialized

Minimum economic unit size and cost: 40 rafts for two persons and Rs.26,000/-

Total investment: Rs.1.0855 lakhs/ha.

Technology transfer methodology: As per CSMCRI terms and conditions of technology transfer

Product acceptability: Internationally accepted

Marketability: The clients who have taken the technology have developed market chain in the country and also exporting the final product

Is this technology is location specific? If so give details: No

Beneficiaries: Industries, coastal populations, stack holders and researchers

Any other important information: At present 900 families are involving in seaweed cultivation in Tamilnadu alone and each cultivator I earning an average of Rs.8000/month.  Among the 900 families, 120 families are cultivating the seaweed with the support of  CSMCRI under  CSIR - Rural technology programme

Contact person and address:

  1. The Director, CSMCRI, Bhavnagar
    E-mail: Director


Technology licensed to: