Securing the Livelihoods of Seaweed Farmers through Innovation and Financial Inclusion
Project Lead: MARI Indonesia
Financial Support: Received mentoring and capacity building support from ORRAA’s Ocean Resilience Innovation Challenge, which was financially supported by the Government of Canada.
Through its Ocean Resilience Innovation Challenge, ORRAA is supporting MARI Indonesia in its work to enhance the prospects of seaweed farmers and the long-term resilience of their communities – helping them to take more control of the seaweed production value chain through technology, finance, and governance. MARI is working with farmers in South Sulawesi to upgrade the production using technology, whilst also enabling access to finance and insurance, and improving governance.
Seaweed or kelp is increasingly recognised as a multifaceted nature-based solution, with growing research pointing to its many benefits as a ‘blue food’, as well as for potential carbon sequestration, coastal protection, and as a nature-positive alternative to agriculture. The range of ecological and economic benefits offered by seaweed is likely to make its cultivation one of the fastest growing sectors in the sustainable blue economy.
To help fulfil the potential of cultivated seaweed for farmers and their families, MARI is working with farmers in South Sulawesi to upgrade the production chain using technology, enabling access to finance and insurance, and improving governance. South Sulawesi is home to more than 60 per cent of Indonesia’s seaweed farmers, and MARI’s aim is to empower them – and ultimately other communities around the world – to draw on the full economic and environmental benefits of seaweed to build their long-term resilience.
MARI’s approach is designed to put every stage of the cycle into the hands of the farmers. Their solutions include ensuring that the seedlings purchased are climate resilient and high yielding, as well as to deploying sensors that monitor key variables to select the best growing sites. To rebalance the relationship with buyers, MARI is also supporting the development of a blockchain-based digital platform that provides real time aggregate data on transactions, operations and sales to harvesting teams.
As an ORIC finalist, MARI was challenged by ORRAA to refine its business model and value proposition to both investors and stakeholders. During this process, MARI has honed its financial model, expanded its connections in the seaweed and conservation sectors, and built critical skills for building its business model through the ORRAA Leadership Academy.
Scalability and Next Steps
The project aims to produce 40,000 tonnes of fresh seaweed a year by 2024, generating revenues of more than USD$8 million and stabilising income and access to finance for more than 1,000 people.
In October 2022, MARI Oceans announced it had entered a funding partnership with leading impact investors – Deliberate Capital and global reinsurer group Swiss Re’s non-profit arm – the Swiss Re Foundation; forging ahead the next phase of development to enhance current seaweed farming practices in Indonesia.
“The contract model run by MARI Indonesia is transparent, fair, and in our favour, allowing us to develop even better. In addition, aquaculture assistance triggers us to gain knowledge and increase crop yields and participate in protecting the natural environment.”
Farmer on the transition to contract farming and MARI’s support through collectivisation