Seaweed Innovation Project - An alternative livelihood opportunity for Social Empowerment

Hayleys Agriculture Holdings Ltd

Fisherman families and Seaweed farmers were able to draw an additional income of Rs.120,000/= per annum from this project


Marine aquaculture is an alternative source of income for fishing communities in Sri Lanka, which is becoming increasingly popular following a number of successful introductions in the region. One example is the development of seaweed farming. Seaweed farming provides an alternative means of income generation for vulnerable fisherman families who had been adversely affected in the past also because of unpredictable weather patterns. The Mannar Peninsula in Sri Lanka has ideal climatic conditions for Seaweed farming. At this juncture when fishing is becoming unreliable with unpredictable incomes, seaweed farming provides a sustainable alternative. Hayleys Agriculture Holdings Limited commenced a Seaweed (Kappaphycus alvarezii) farming Project in 2012 to establish a seed bank to support a household development program under the Ministry of Economic Development. This project has now been expanded into a fully-fledged sustainable commercial activity in the coastal districts of northern Sri Lanka in order to uplift the economy of vulnerable people from the previous conflict affected areas and who have now been resettled after 30 long years.


The project commenced with the identification and training of farmers on the concept, requirements and economic and social benefits of participation. The company provided the fishing community with education, infrastructure and intensive training. The technical suitability of these coastal areas was assessed after detailed studies and global demand was evaluated to ensure sustainability of the project.

Phase 1 – Research & Development of various farming methods and various suitable site trials/pilot studies with commercial seed bank development activities.

Phase 2 – Successful farming of seaweed and the expansion to commercial volumes which is exported in a raw dry form. This phase also involved rapid expansion to new areas of farming to reach over 10,000 fisherman families.

Phase 3 – Once volumes have reach critical mass, steps will be taken to invest in a processing unit which envisages high-end value addition into world class food ingredients and for production of natural bio-fertilizers.


Hayleys Agriculture initiated the project with the main aim of turning it into a commercially profitable industry, while helping fishing communities to rebuild their lives and generate a steady family income. Key goals were to create as many job opportunities as possible, empower rural families and make the project self-sustainable with infrastructure needed for local production, being manufactured locally. The Seaweed farmers were able to draw an additional income of Rs. 120,000/= per annum from this project. Since there is low risk involvement when compared to other livelihood, many fishing communities are encouraged to take up seaweed farming as alternate livelihood option. The project aims to specially empower female headed households in the villages. Infrastructure and services needed for the production process are designed and constructed locally which provides work opportunities for local labour. Approximately Rs. 20 million per month is circulated in the related towns and villages as payment for procurement of Dry Seaweed and other production materials, transport and services. Additionally regular training sessions and workshops are conducted by experts from around the world to educate villagers on the processes of cultivation and sustainable business practices. Hayleys has also opened savings accounts for all registered farmers so as to inculcate the savings habits within the community.


The project team, set clear goals, actions and specific tasks which helped to complete the 1st Phase within 16 months and embark successfully into the 3rd phase which now takes the project into its goal of 20 Mt per month. The 2-year process is now reaping results well beyond the medium term goal of 100 Mt of production per month. Further investment will be made in keeping with the planned expansions. The critical strength of Hayleys in marketing the end products globally and obtaining the best prices has encouraged more underprivileged and poverty-stricken families to engage in this project.
Hayleys plays a leading role in Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector offering the entire range of agricultural inputs and production and marketing of value added agri products for domestic and global markets. In addition, Hayleys Agriculture robustly engages with the rural, farming and plantation communities in Sri Lanka and regionally through best-in-class agri extension services, sustainable partnerships and transferring new and innovative technologies to all stakeholders.