Commercial seaweed harvesting occurs in approximately 35 countries spread across the Northern and Southern Hemispheres — in water ranging from cold to temperate to tropical — and different kinds of seaweeds are now used in multiple industries and applications, including animal feed supplements and horticultural and agricultural sectors.
North American Kelp provides high-quality seaweed-based ingredients to manufacturers and formulators of animal feeds, pet commodities, and horticulture and agriculture products worldwide. Our products are made with fresh, locally harvested, sustainable seaweed from natural Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed beds off the coast of Maine.

What Are Commercial Seaweeds and Kelps?

Also referred to as marine algae, commercial seaweeds come in various colors, such as red, brown, and green. Brown seaweeds are typically large — with giant kelp reaching heights of 20 m. long, to leather-like seaweeds from 2 to 4 m. long — or even smaller species which are 30 to 60 cm. long. On the other hand, red and green seaweeds are smaller, ranging from a few centimeters to about a meter.

Kelps are large, brown seaweed that typically grows in shallow saltwater near coastal areas. They are mostly found off Maine, Canada, Ireland, Iceland, and Norway coasts. They also have over 50 vitamins and minerals, including iodine, amino acids, thiamin, and vitamins A, C, and B12.

Kelp and Seaweed Ingredients Guide and Applications

Commercial seaweeds and kelps are commonly used in food and beverage industries due to their various hydrocolloid attributes, and they also have applications in agricultural products and animal feed additives. The following are some of their purposes and applications:

Animal Feed

The production of seaweed or kelp meal — dried seaweed processed to a coarse grind — has boosted its availability for animals. However, its nutritional value has traditionally been assumed to be in its input of minerals, trace elements, and nutrients to animal diets.

Ascophyllum, a widely available algae, is the primary raw material for seaweed meals. First, it is freshly cut and passed through hammer mills with progressive screens to achieve the meal’s consistency successfully. Then, it is dried in a drum dryer at temperatures ranging from 700 °C to 800 °C, with a moisture content of less than 15%.

Pet Feed Supplements

Seaweed flour is recognized as the largest application of carrageenan — a substance extracted from seaweeds, consisting of a mixture of polysaccharides. It is typically combined with the meat ingredient (abattoir waste), water, flavors, and locust bean gum in canned pet foods.

Seaweed flour becomes an even better pet feed supplement when combined with locust bean gum because it produces an excellent product at a low cost. Furthermore, the two hydrocolloids aid in the binding of the meat, and the concentration used — either a thickened gravy around the meat pieces or a flavored jelly — improves the product’s appearance as it is removed from the can.

For domestic regular-sized dogs, it is recommended to apply 1/4 teaspoon of seaweed or kelp meal per 25 lbs. body weight, whereas a cat’s meal should contain one pinch of any seaweed product.

Fish Feed Supplements

Most wet feeds or fish foods are composed of meat and fish waste combined with dry additives containing additional nutrients, forming a doughy mass. In addition, a binder is required to remain intact and dissolve when dropped in water. This binder is frequently a technical grade of alginate and has also been used to keep formulated shrimp and abalone feed together.

The alginate in seaweed meal made from brown seaweeds is effective as a binder. Since seaweed meal is less expensive than other common sources, it is far superior to other options and can make up a substantial portion of the feed’s cost.

Livestock Animals Feed Supplements

Seaweed products benefit livestock animals — such as cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, chickens, and goats — in various ways. These supplements boost feed utilization, enhance milk production, and aid in weight gain. They also help reduce breeding issues, parasitic infections, white muscle disease, and wool shedding.

When using kelp meals as animal supplements, the following portions are recommended:

  • Chickens: 1% of total feed pre-mixed
  • Dairy and beef cattle: 2 to 4 oz. a day
  • Swine: free choice or 50 lbs. to 2000 lbs. of complete ration
  • Calves: 1 to 2 oz. a day
  • Range cattle: free choice at two parts meal to one part salt mix
  • Horses, sheep, and goats: ¼ to ½ oz. per day
  • Turkeys: pre-mixed 1 to 2% of total feed

Fertilizers and Soil Conditioners

Seaweed meals are marketed as soil additives that function as fertilizers and conditioners. They have adequate nitrogen and potassium content but are significantly lower in phosphorus than standard organic wastes and synthetic fertilizers’ typical N:P:K ratios.

Brown seaweeds contain a high concentration of insoluble carbohydrates. Thus, they act as soil conditioners and have excellent moisture retention characteristics.

Horticulture and Agriculture

Various seaweed and kelp products, especially extracts, are now widely accepted in the horticultural and agricultural industries. They are applied to vegetable, fruit, and flower crops, resulting in faster plant growth, increased uptake of soil nutrients, improved resistance to pests and frost, and enhanced seed germination.

These extracts are all made from brown seaweeds, but the species vary by country. Some are caused by the alkaline extraction of seaweed, and anything that is not dissolved is removed via filtration.

Spreading seaweed fertilizers around the bases of plants, crops, shrubs, and flowers is the simplest way to use them. It can also be used as a plant potting medium or directly mixed into the soil. Here are some more horticulture and agriculture application tips:

  • Squashes: Sprinkle a small amount on the base of the plants early in the growing season to help deter squash bags. To keep pests at bay, repeat this process every ten days.
  • Garlic: Soak for one to two hours in kelp meal tea before planting. Combine 1/4 cup of kelp meal and one gallon of water to make tea.
  • Stressed and dehydrated plants and crops: Use liquid kelp rather than dry kelp meal for faster absorption and reaction.
  • Plants and crops frequently exposed to extreme temperatures: Use liquid kelp as a foliar spray.
  • Vegetable gardens and flowerbeds: Apply one to two pounds of kelp meal per 100 sq. ft. and mix it into the top three inches of soil.


Seaweeds have a variety of applications and are becoming popular as a new component of integrated aquaculture systems. In particular, various kinds of seaweeds provide a safe and healthy environment for young fish, crustaceans, and other sea plants, which can then be harvested commercially or used to improve wild population densities. Moreover, the mere existence of these farms prevents deep sea bottom overfishing in specific areas, thereby protecting the sea floor.

High-Quality Seaweed and Kelp Products From North American Kelp

For more than 50 years, North American Kelp has become the most trustworthy provider of responsibly and sustainably farmed kelp products. Our high-quality products are single-ingredient, renewable sources of minerals and vitamins for animals and plants. We also use an intricate drying process to preserve the seaweed’s nutrients, color, and a savory flavor, resulting in a flavorful supplement that animals enjoy.

Contact us today to learn more about our products. We will be happy to assist you with your requirements!