Skip to Main Content

AFS 401

A Research Guide for Agricultural & Food Systems 401

Project Description


Jesika Harper (

Sonja Jensen (

This AgWest Capstone group will focus on kelp farming in the state of Alaska. Mariculture is defined as marine farming and is a specialized branch of aquaculture involving the cultivation of marine organisms for food and other animal products. Seaweed production includes growing kelp from seed to harvest in open water. Bull, sugar, and ribbon kelp are the primary kelp species grown on an annual basis in Alaska.

There is substantial interest from young, beginning, and small producers who would like to start kelp operations, and a great opportunity for many Alaskans. Given their abundant natural resources and access to boats and maritime skills kelp farming has grown substantially. It is often a secondary income source for fishermen given the seasonality of the kelp harvest and the fishing season. There has also been research and financial support from various research groups as they look for economic development for the state outside of fishing, tourism, and oil.

Kelp production has relatively low start-up costs and ease of abundant production/ harvest. However, the processing and marketing of kelp remain a question mark as more farmers enter the industry. Kelp must be processed or stabilized within 24-48 hours. There are limited kelp processing facilities in Alaska today and challenges due to the remote nature of many farms. Alaskans have proven that they can produce kelp, but the supply has outpaced the current market demand.

Alaska is within the AgWest lending territory, and we have increasing interest from producers and industry groups in our ability to finance kelp. The goal of this paper would be to provide details about the three legs of the stool: production, processing, and marketing.

Questions for the AgWest Capstone Group:


·  What are the start-up costs to a kelp operation?

·  What are the licensing/permit requirements and who manages them?

·  What is annual production, does it vary by variety or area?

·  Develop an understanding of size of the operation and overall production capacities.

·  Develop understanding of what annual production costs would be and how they might increase with increase acres farmed.


·  What are the different types of kelp processing?

·  What are the costs associated with kelp processing?

·  What is the ability to transport for processing?

·  What are the current challenges with kelp processing?


·  What is the demand for bull, sugar, and ribbon kelp?

·  Are there contracts available? If so with whom?

·  What products is processed kelp used for? What if any additional demand could be created?

·  How would AgWest understand what a demand for kelp would be on an annual basis?

Search Tips & Examples

This project asks a lot of different question. Below are some keywords and search statements that may help you answer these questions.

To learn more about developing keywords and search strings check out this link.

Example of Potential Search: 

Note: The following keywords and search strings were just a quick ideas I came up with. You may come up with better ones within your group.

Search #1

Title: kelp OR  algae OR seaweed


Title: Processing

Note: This search already gives you many results but you could also add keywords like production, harvesting, food, costs, etc.

Here is what that search looks like in the WSU Libraries' catalog (link)  

Search #2

Title: kelp OR  algae OR seaweed


Title: cost* OR market* Or valu* OR product*

Title: food*

Here is what that search looks like in the WSU Libraries' catalog (link) 

Search #3

Title: kelp OR  algae OR seaweed


Title: alask*


Any Field: cost* OR market* Or valu* OR product*

Here is what that search looks like in the WSU Libraries' catalog (link) 

Note: You can also use keywords like kelp or seaweed as subject term searches.

Find Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Research

Agriculture & STEM Databases

Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics) - Arguably the best STEM database.

Agricola (EBSCO) - A small, agriculture specific, database provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library.

Business & Labor Databases

Business Source Complete - An extensive business database which allows you to search company and industry information across popular press, trade journals, product reviews, and much more. 

EconLit - provides citations and abstracts to economic research dating back to 1969.  Includes information on accounting, capital markets, econometrics, economic forecasting, government regulations, labor economics, etc. Includes abstracts of books, journal articles, and working papers.

Note: Several of these databases are EBSCO products. This means that you can chain multiple databases together for a more powerful search. You can do this by selecting what databases you want to search (see image regarding how to do that).

Multi-Disciplinary Databases

Washington State University Library Catalog (Search It) - Allows you to  search among many different types of resources and order materials from other institutions if they are not immediately available through WSU. 


If you are interested in seeing a full list of agricultural databases available at WSU check out this link.

If you want to see all of the databases available, across disciplines, check out this link.

Find Data

Government Agencies

The Alaska Department of Agriculture also provides reports, data, etc.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has information and resources regarding the global markets

Find Industry & Corporate Info

For your project, you may need to examine corporate and industry profiles, trade publications, press releases, laws and court cases. etc.

Below are a few corporate and business databases to get you started. 

Helpful Industry Resources

For more in-depth information regarding corporate research, take a look at the WSU Libraries Company Research Library Guide. 

Find Local & Extension Resources

Part of your project will be understanding the current and historic context of aquaculture in Alaska. Below are some resources that will assist.

The University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Services will provide historic and contemporary agricultural resources pertaining to Washington State. Many of these resources have been digitized but many others are only located within the Owen Science Library.

Local (Alaska) Resources

University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service Publications Database

The University of Alaska (Fairbanks) has an institutional repository where scholars deposit work.

See Also: and the HathiTrust repository will both have contemporary and historic resources worth exploring. Sources include the USDA, state extensions, and other research institutions. 


Find WSU & UI Extension Resources

Note: You can find Extension (and other WSU) research a couple of different ways. Theoretically, there should be overlap between the following databases but in practice it is useful to search them all.

You can search the WSU Libraries' catalog and limit your results to Washington State University and/or Washington State University Cooperative Extension within the "Author" limiter. Here's a picture of how to do that.

Research Exchange is the institutional repository at WSU. It will have a lot of historic resources but also some contemporary research. 

The WSU Cooperative Extension Service also provides a list of contemporary publications. It may also be useful to look at the University of Idaho's Extension publications.


Note: Finding extension research done by other institutions can be tricky (but worthwhile). Currently, a group of librarians are working on creating a centralized extension database. Until it is completed, you can search the National Agriculture Library's database PubAg or use Google. You can also email me for assistance. 

Quick Reading List

Kite-Powell, H., et al. (2022). Estimating production cost for large-scale seaweed farms. Applied Phycology, 3(1), 435–445. See article here.

State of Alaska Department of Labor. (2023). Aquaculture: A growing industry.  Alaskan economic trends 43(12). Follow link to report (PDF).

Stopha, M. (2020). Alaska kelp farming The blue revolution. Alaska Fish & Wildlife News. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. See article here (PDF).

University of Washington College of the Environment. (2020). Kelp farming and the potential for new maritime markets in Puget Sound. See article here.

Welch, L. (2022). Report assesses Alaska communities as locations for seaweed processing facilities. Alaska Journal of Commerce, 46(8), 3–3. See article here.

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us