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How much will it cost to start seaweed farming?

The amount of money necessary to start up a seaweed farm, depends on the size you have in mind. We suggest you start your farming activity with a small set-up. Just 320 or 480 lines. After some practice, it will be up to you to decide whether or not to expand your business. To give you a better idea of what you need to start your farm, in the following Tables 1 and 2, are listed the materials necessary to start a 320 and a 480 line seaweed farm and their costs. Some materials such as wooden posts or stakes, can be available to you at no cost if you decide to utilize mangrove or other bush timber, and obtain these yourself.

Table 1. List of the materials necessary to set-up a seaweed farm of 320 lines or 480 lines. The total cost indicated, excludes the seaweed seed necessary to start farming.

MaterialsCost per UnitAmount NeededTotal CostAmount NeededTotal Cost
Posts (timber or mangrove wood)$ 1.50 each30$ 45.0045$ 67.50
7 mm rope$ 0.14/m210 m$ 29.40320 m$ 44.80
3 mm rope$ 0.025/m1,700 m$ 42.502,500 m$ 62.50
Raffia$ 1.25/roll30 rolls$ 37.5050 rolls$ 62.50
U nails$ 3.00/kg1 kg$ 3.002 kg$ 6.00
Galvanized Wire$ 2.80/kg10 kg$ 28.0010 kg$ 28.00
TOTAL EXPENSES  $ 185.40 $ 271.30

The total expenses, as indicated in Table 1, can be ignored if you use a simpler way to set your farm with each line stretched between two stakes.

You can use only mangrove or other bush timber (about 10 centimeter in diameter) and not the bigger posts as listed in Table 1.

The lines will be simply fastened to the stakes with loops on each end. Nails and galvanized wire will become unnecessary.

Following are the essential materials and their costs necessary for your simple farm as mentioned above.

Table 2. List of the essential materials necessary to set-up a seaweed farm of 320 lines or 480 lines in the simplest way; one line-two stakes. The total cost indicated, excludes the seaweed seed necessary to start farming.

MaterialsCost per UnitAmount NeededTotal CostAmount NeededTotal Cost
3 mm rope$ 0.025/m1,760 m$ 44.002,640 m$ 66.00
Raffia$ 1.25/roll30 rolls$ 37.5050 rolls$ 62.50
TOTAL EXPENSES  $ 81.50 $ 128.50

Table 3 lists the tools you need to start your farm. Once you have bought these necessary tools, they become your asset and you can use them whenever you need either to expand or do maintenance of your farm. You do not need to buy new ones. Other materials such as posts or stakes, nails, raffia and ropes, will last for at least 1 year.

Table 3. List of the tools necessary to both start and continue working at your seaweed farm.

Mall hammer$18.00
Claw hammer$10.00
Bow saw$12.00
Mask and snorkel  (2 sets)$54.00
Kitchen knives  (2 at $.75 each)$1.50
Cane knive$7.00

Who can help me to start and finance my seaweed farm?

The Fiji Government, through its various Ministries can help you a lot if you decide to start cultivating seaweed. The Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Primary Industries has staff based in numerous stations all over the country ready to come and see you. You can discuss with them your problems and they can suggest to you the best way to proceed. They can also help you to find some of the materials you need to start your farm, and most important, they can give you seaweed seeds free or address you to the closest seed supplier. They can give you technical advice and put you in touch with the seaweed buyers. It is really a great help. Do not hesitate to seek assistance from them.

If you do not know anybody from the Fisheries Division working in your district, you can write to:

Director of Fisheries,
Fisheries Division,
P.O. BOX 358, Suva

Institutions such as the Fiji Development Bank, the New Zealand and Australian Embassies, United States Agency for International Development, have given in the past some assistance in terms of loans and grants to the Fiji seaweed farmers. The assistance is given in terms of materials you need (ropes, raffia, and in some cases small punts). Do not expect to receive cash.

It is important to know, that the Fiji Development Bank might help you with loans. They will require a deposit of 33% of the total amount of money which you are asking for. In addition to that, you will be asked to pay 8% annual interest to the bank. The Ministry of Rural Development, the Provincial Council, the Ministry for Fijian Affairs or the District Officers, can also help you to some extent.

How can I organize my work at the farm?

The amount of effort you need to put into farming seaweed, the number of people that you need to help you, and of course, the money you can earn from farming, depends on the size of your farm.

A farm size of 320 or 480 lines set following the off-bottom method, can be handled by one person.

Considering that seaweed can be harvested after 8 weeks, it is practical to divide your farm into 8 blocks. In this way you will be able to plant and harvest one block every week.

For a 320 line farm, each block will consist of 40 lines, whereas 60 lines are suggested for a 480 line farm.

Example of a off-bottom farm divided into 8 blocks.

If you decide to work 4 days per week, you can harvest 10 to 15 lines per day, depending on the size of your farm.

In case you plan to expand your farm, say up to 800 lines, two people will be sufficient to look after the planting and harvesting operations. For a larger farm a family of 4 to 5 members is recommended.

The diagram shown in the next page, outlines an example of work schedule that might fit your situation. Please note that the proposed work schedule is designed for a new seaweed farmer. In this case you might start with 10 lines, as suggested, or more. However, if you already have for example about 80 mature lines available, you can start directly to plant your 320-lines farm. In fact from one mature line of seaweed, you can obtain enough planting material for four new lines.


If you can start your farm by planting 40 lines instead of 10 lines, as suggested in the work schedule. After the first 8 weeks you will have sufficient seaweed to expand your farm directly to 320 lines.

Here is a suggested weekly schedule based on 4-working days.

Harvest all your seaweed (40 lines)Re-plant and teddingRe-plant and teddingConsolidate and sell

Of course, if you prefer to distribute your job over the week, here is another suggested schedule that might fit your situation.

Harvest 20 linesHarvest 20 linesRe-plant and TeddingRe-plant and TeddingRe-plant and TeddingConsolidate and sell

Both examples are based on the assumption that the weather remains good and there is plenty of sunshine to dry your seaweed.

In an established farm where seaweed is cultivated using the floating method, one person can manage to plant and harvest 1 raft per day. Therefore, working on a four day week, you will be able to plant and harvest 4 rafts.

What should I do to maintain my farm?

To be a productive farmer, the seaweed farm should be well attended. This means that you constantly visit and check your farm.

Seaweed needs to be kept clean. To do this, you can shake or raise the seaweed lines to remove any unwanted seaweeds and rubbish.

If you do not keep your seaweed clean, other seaweeds will take away the nutrients necessary for your plants growth. As a result your plants will not grow very well.

To assure a better growth, it is advisable to remove silt or mud coating on the surface of the seaweed, by shaking the lines. The parts of the plants showing white and pink areas, should be removed and taken to the shore.

Detached lines should be fastened and lost plants replaced.

Slow growing strains should be harvested and replaced with fast growing strains.

Fish grazers, especially the bottom and coral dwelling species, should be kept away or fished if possible.

Seaweed should be harvested as soon as it reaches its harvesting size (6 to 8 weeks), and re-planted immediately for a continuous harvesting and re-planting cycle. Do not leave your plants to over-grow as they will break and easily drift away. Over matured plants are difficult to dry as their branches are thicker.

Record keeping

To be able to successfully manage your farm, a record keeping system is an essential part of the management.

Such a record is the foundation for any business, especially in a farm, and through it, it is possible to find out if your activity is profitable. If so, you might think to expand your farm.

By getting into the habit of recording daily your expenditures and income, you can rapidly see if you are making or losing money in the seaweed business.

The record keeping will help you to see many other aspects related to your activity such as how much fuel has been consumed in a week, or during certain months of the year you can obtain better harvests, etc.

The record book, should be filled every day. If it is left to the end of the week, there are more chances that some payments or seaweed collected could be forgotten.

In the next page we suggest you a scheme to follow. It is just an example.

Number of hours spent farming: 6 hrs
Hours spent elsewhere (plantation, etc.): 2 hrs
Labour (Number of people working with you): 4
Numbers of lines harvested: 40
Numbers of lines planted: 20
Weight of seaweed collected and dried: 120 kg
Amount of money earned by selling seaweed: $ 60.00
Other incomes (fish sales, etc.): $ 25.00
Loan (FDB and others) payment:            
Fuel for your motor boat:            
Fuel for your car (or truck):            
Labour cost:            
Food for you and your family:            
School fees, etc.:            
Medical expenses:            
Farm costs:            

How much I will earn from my seaweed farm?

This is probably the point in which you are interested the most. How much you can earn.

Farming seaweed is not considered a tough job. It requires, though, a constant effort. You cannot start cultivating and then abandon your farm for a while and expect to see good harvests. Thus, it is necessary to work at last 4 days per week to earn sufficient money for you and your family.

Based on the current selling price of $ 0.50 per kg of dried seaweed, if you are engaged in a 320 line farm, you can expect to earn about $ 60.00 per week. If you have a bigger farm, let's say 480 line farm, you can earn up to $ 90.00 per week. This means $ 15.00 to $ 22.50 per each of the four working days. Not Bad!

You may be wondering how this is possible. Follow our reasoning. From a 320-line farm, you can harvest 10 lines per day, which means that in a 4 day-week you can harvest 40 lines. Each line will weigh about 30 kg, thus totalling 1,200 kg of wet seaweed or 120 kg dry weight. If you sell your seaweed at $ 0.50 per kg and you produce 120 kg per week, then you can earn about $ 60.00. From a bigger farm of 480 lines, you are expected to harvest 15 lines every day. In a 4-day week you can produce 180 kg of dried seaweed worth about $ 90.00.

Larger farms will earn you a higher income, but will also require more effort, commitment and initial investment. You will also need more people to help you maintain the farm, unless your wife and your kids work with you.

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