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Revisiting the economic profitability of giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera (Ochrophyta) cultivation in Chile

Camus, Carolina, Infante, Javier, Buschmann, Alejandro H.
Aquaculture 2019 v.502 pp. 80-86
Macrocystis pyrifera, agricultural industry, biomass, clean energy, cosmetics, demonstration farms, econometric models, human population, humans, hydrocolloids, macroalgae, market prices, profitability, seaweed culture, Chile
The demand for seaweed biomass for hydrocolloid industries and novel products for the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and agro-industry has been steadily increasing during the last decade. This trend is expected to continue into the future as new uses are discover and the ever-increasing human population needs for healthy products and clean energy expand beyond land-based resources. Seaweed farming still faces constraints for its development and one of them is its economic profitability as in general the seaweed biomass has a rather low value with few exceptions of some species used for human consumption. Therefore, there is a need to increase production of seaweed biomass, but there is still a lack of realistic economic assessments that determine the economic potentiality of a seaweed farming project to attract investors. This article reports an economic model, fed with data of a pre-commercial Macrocystis pyrifera 21-ha pilot farm installed in southern Chile. The economic sensitivity analysis revealed that cultivation of M. pyrifera in southern Chile is profitable in a 10-ha cultivation system when the market price is at least US$ 87 wet t−1 and yields are kept at a minimum of 12.4 kg m−1. We discuss the potential that seaweed cultivation has in Chile and we agree with previous studies that value, productivity and the farming model used are key factors for the economic success of seaweed farming.