Technology Acceleration in the Indonesian Seaweed Sector

How does MARI Oceans work with farmers?

A man poses for a photo
Pak Asdar Marsuki is a farm manager at MARI Oceans

MARI Oceans helps seaweed producers in Southeast Asia by providing business expertise, funding and seed investment

MARI Oceans tries to support farm business development, starting from providing seeds, financing, production facilities, then imparting knowledge and upskilling to farmers. MARI also provides harvesting, post-harvest facilities, provision of processing to packaging facilities and including market brokerage. Eventually, I hope to be able to have a processor as well that could provide added value.

What are the challenges facing seaweed producers?

When farmers are asked, their first answer is capital, the second is related to the price of seaweed, and the third is infrastructure. Farmers also need better drying facilities instead of drying the seaweed in front of their house or on the road.

Technology is also very much needed, especially for determining weather and water conditions. Technology can also help us adapt to market needs so that farmers can gain business security. There is a need for real-time data so farmers know what to expect and what to do.

There should also be a special government scheme to finance the cultivation of seaweed. Policies should not only benefit big companies, but should also include coastal zone management.

Is using Xylem’s Ai1 sensor making a significant impact on your farmers?

Breeding has many factors to consider. With the support of IoT tools, farmers can stay abreast of changes – not monthly or seasonally, but every 15 minutes with updated data.

If farmers are educated on what factors affect seaweed growth, they can understand the data and make informed decisions. For example, if the salinity drops by a certain amount, they need to know the types of diseases or pests that will appear and how they can mitigate them.

Farmers are very happy with the tool as it helps them make predictions despite changing conditions. What we need for future improvements is the tool to be able to provide SMS notifications.

What did you learn from your pilot project at Bone?

Innovations are still needed that can improve farmers’ business and living standards, from income, health and education. We also need to interest young people and involve them in this business. That is why we insist on technology and innovation.

What do your daily activities at Bone consist of?

Meetings with farmers, discussing the development of their business, observing their sites. I also coordinate with supporting institutions such as ATI, Makassar Polytechnic, Fisheries Polytechnic, Hasanuddin University and the national government.

I think the area can later become a fisheries technopark offering support for technology, education, research and business. The community cannot do this alone, it needs the support of other stakeholders, including the government.

two men in a boat
Asda Marsuki works closely with seaweed growers in Bone, South Sulawesi

If farmers are educated on what factors affect seaweed growth, they can understand the data and make informed decisions
© Asdar Marsuki

What are the challenges of working with farmers?

Their understanding of good agricultural practices is still lacking. And it’s hard for them to join a group. They are also impatient, everyone wants instant results. Also, they always think that the government should help. But the government has its limitations, so the community must continue to make efforts to manage the potential around them so that they can prosper and be independent.

How did you join the aquaculture sector?

I am originally from the fishery resource utilization sector, where I learned about fishing techniques, technology and the behavior of different fish species. It also taught me that the challenge for coastal communities is very severe as travel to the sea is very expensive and the risk is very high. There are many widows left at home and work is only seasonal. Because of these problems, we started growing algae in ponds.

We then set up a consultancy service, teaching other farmers how to grow seaweed and sell their product based on markets and market mediation.

From 2003 to 2004, I had an internship in Kalimantan where I studied seaweed farming. When we worked there, through a WWF project, we tried to find an alternative source of livelihood to destructive fishing practices. So we encouraged fishermen to cultivate seaweed instead. The potential for aquaculture in Indonesia is very large. We cannot depend on wild stocks, cultivation efforts are needed.

seaweed producer in a canoe
Indonesia is the second largest producer of seaweed in the world

MARI Ocean SOPs are increasingly being adopted by seaweed producers

© Minnapoli

How does MARI help close the gender gap?

For example, in terms of business and financial schemes, farmers’ wives are also involved. Wives are involved in transactional activities, the payment of the harvest is channeled through the common household account, which is usually managed by the women in the family. The insurance also includes wives and children. Nearly 70 percent of seaweed businesses involve women—they make the ropes, craft the ropes, and dry the seaweed. MARI tries to calculate how much money is appropriate for each service provided. Maybe we’ll encourage family financial literacy later. Maybe we can approach health issues related to business as well. Yesterday we bought gloves to protect the farmers’ skin from diseases.

How do you see MARI developing over the next ten years?

MARI can influence and be an icon for the whole seaweed sector in Indonesia. Our SOPs are getting accepted more and thousands of farmers can partner with us. I am still keen to harvest over 1000 tonnes of seaweed per month at the pilot farm operated by MARI Oceans.

MARI Oceans continues its path of growth with communities in Bone, South Sulawesi, to get involved, please contact [email protected]

Senior Editor at The Fish Site

Rob Fletcher has been writing about aquaculture since 2007 as editor of Fish farmer, Fish farming expert and The fish site. He holds an MA in History from the University of Edinburgh and an MA in Sustainable Aquaculture from the University of St Andrews. He currently lives and works in Scotland.

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