Leila Hayashi

First meeting
2011, May 23rd
Last update
October 2016
Kappaphycus, seaweed cultivation

“I have great expectations, I really would like to develop this seaweed farming here. This is my dream. I wish I could help the fishermen in some ways, with something I believe in. I began this project during my master and this is something very personal: it is like an heritage from my late supervisor.“

In Brazil, Leila Hayashi works on the introduction and the development of Kappaphycus farming, a tropical seaweed largely employed in the food industry for its carrageenans content. This seaweed cultivation would offer a diversification of activities to the fishermen and the shellfish producers in the country. Along with her team, Leila settled the first experimental legal area for the cultivation of Kappaphycus. At the time of our first meeting, the discussions were still going with the Ministry of Aquaculture and Fisheries in order to define a licence, prior to the launch of the project at a bigger scale. Meet my “algosister” Leila Hayashi and get updates from Floripa in Brazil!


on the field

My name is Leila Hayashi, I’m a Professor at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina and my work is related to seaweed cultivation, more specifically to Kappaphycus cultivation. Our program here in Brazil began with the introduction, and now, we are trying to develop the seaweed cultivation. Here, in Santa Catarina we are trying to find out the licence to begin the farming of this exotic species and we are working with the Ministry of Aquaculture and Fisheries to try to develop the cultivation in the best way.


I graduated in the Universidade Paulista. But I began in the seaweed world only during my master in Universidade de Sao Paolo when I worked with Edison Jose Paula, my late supervisor, who is the person who had started all this project about Kappaphycus in Brazil. I did my PhD at the Universidad de Sao Paulo too but Edison deceased at that time and Eurico Cabral de Oliveira became my supervisor.

We worked with three kinds of cultivation during my PhD thesis.

  • First at all, I focused on in vitro cultivation: I developed some protocols and some experiments to initiate the micropropagation of Kappaphycus and the callus production.
  • After that, I also studied the potential of biofiltration of Kappaphycus co-cultivated in tanks with fishes.
  • The third approach of my PhD was a different protocol of cultivation in the sea, which I developed in partnership with Degussa - at that time, it is now Cargill – France - and also the Oceanographic Institute of the Universidade de Sao Paulo.

So, with all this work, I was invited to come to Florianopolis and to begin the program of introduction of Kappaphycus farming here in Santa Catarina, in order to offer the different options to the producers. This state is the first one in Brazil that have all infrastructures for aquaculture and mariculture in general. So we are trying to give them some others options and rent and money.


There are now 5 students working with me. One of them is a master student: he continues my PhD thesis in tissu culture of Kappaphycus: we are trying to regenerate the callus and to produce new strains, the best growing seedlings. Another student is developing different kind of dryers to dry Kappaphycus here in Santa Catarina. We have a lot of rain here, we are not in the tropical area, we are in the subtropical area and we have hard conditions in winter. So he is trying to develop some kinds of dryers with low cost to the producers. Another one is my undergraduate student : she is trying to develop some kind of fertilization with shrimps effluents and Kappaphycus and trying to see if this would be enough for Kappaphycus to pass the bad season in winter. There are 2 other great projects :

  • evaluation of the production sites of Kappaphycus in Santa Catarina in terms of economic, social and environmental ways
  • monitoring : we try to establish some protocols of monitoring because Kappaphycus is exotic and this species have caused some problems in India or in Hawaii. Nobody knows what happen to this species that can be an invader. If it is Kappaphycus, nobody knows in fact what is the truth of the story about.

We are trying to develop all the protocols and all the monitoring to avoid this kind of problems in the future, and help the environmental agency to control all this biodispersion if we have. I don’t believe that we will have but it is just a precaution program.

At the interface of sectors

I work with a partner, an enterprise: this is a Santa Catarina governmental enterprise (Epagri). They work with the capacitation and specialization, and give information to producers, to tell what they need to do to develop in a very sustainable way all this kind of farming. As I mentioned before, Santa Catarina is the first one in terms of aquaculture production because they have this tradition to cultivate everything in the sea: oysters, mussels, shrimps, everything. Because of that, we chose to begin here because - well, not begin because the pilot started in Sao Paulo - but to bring this project here and to try to be the model of the Kappaphycus cultivation with all this kind of formation that the producers already have. Since the beginning we had some technical seminars to tell the producers what we are doing, what is the next steps, what we are waiting for and why we are waiting for. So in the first time we said that this is an exotic species, that needs some care, needs some monitoring to not become a bioinvader, or a biodispersion. This can be a program or not, we don’t know so we must do tests. So we showed them all the experiments that we developed, all the results that we had and they accepted very well everything. And they understand that if we begin the cultivation without the licence, this will be not a good business for them. Nobody will pay for the seaweeds if they don’t have the licence (I mean serious enterprises, not the smallest ones). So, with all this kind of information that we have gathered for this three years of this experimental cultivation, now they understand and they are waiting for us and they trust us, and our project. This some kind of effort for Epagri technicians and also Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina too.


  • Seaweed adaptation

I think one of the main problem we had faced until now was the fact that we bring tropical seaweeds to the subtropical waters and Kappaphycus has suffered a lot. Poor girls! They suffer a lot! But we develop some cultivation technologies, we take advantage of the technology of mussels cultivation to use it in the seaweeds protocols. With that, we take them together inside of this tube nets and this was great for not breaking in the strong currents and the water forces. This was one of the main progress that we have. We have also problems with the winter time of course, we need to find out how we will solve that and one of the solution was this tanks cultivation that we begin to develop and also the fertilization with shrimps effluents. This are two kind of things that we are trying to take advantage of, and testing.

  • About the licence

The other big problem that we have is this lack of communication between the University, between the Environmental organizations that give us the licence, and all this political arrangement. I think in all countries the problem is the same : we know that Kappaphycus have some environmental problems in the past in some countries but as I told you before, this is not a proved problem until now, people don’t know exactly what happens and why this kind of bioinvasion can happen on coral reefs. We do not have coral reefs here, so this is the first one reason to introduce in Santa Catarina, the another one is that the temperature is limitant to the development of the seedlings : we cultivate the seedlings in the raft, so, out of the raft, the seedlings will die because as they will fall down, the water temperature decrease, and they will die. Even with all this kind of reasons, the environmental organization is a little bit insecure and we are working together to find the best solution and have the security to develop the activity here.

So we began all this monitoring project to establish protocols and I think of course Kappaphycus is a very important seaweed species and my recommendation that all countries that would like to introduce the seaweed need to be concerned about quarantine procedures, and monitoring all the time and not only in the moment when you put the seaweed in the sea, and also instruct the producers to see and themselves develop their monitoring projects and protocols. I think this is the best way. And of course before beginning, make this kind of studies of social, economic and environmental benefits, and not only just social or only economical or only environmental but put together all the interests and see if this would happen in the good way or sustainable way of not. Because this demands a lot of money, a lot of people and a lot of interests. And to stop it, when you begin the process after… this is complicated. Mainly for the producers: producers would feel very bad if this is not a successful project. It’s better to tell them, what you are doing, what are the results and instruct them to have this kind of communication with the producers, with the government and with the university and enterprises like Epagri. This association will be guaranteeing the success of the project.

I have great expectations! I really would like to develop this farming here. This is my dream. If I could be able to give these options, I could help them in some ways in something in I believe. This is my huge expectation. I began this project in my master and this is something very personal. I have a very personal value in this project. It is like an heritage from my late supervisor. Something, a very honorable thing. So, it’s for his memory of course. But it became my dream too. And well the project gave me a lot: for me personally, for my professional profile. It was huge. I have a lot of publications, I had the opportunity to meet several researchers like Mike Guiry, Alan Critchley, Anne Hurtado,… And to have this kind of feedbacks from the greatest one - that I consider the greatest ones - from Philippines was a very happy thing!

Innovations on seaweeds?

About innovations and all the potential of seaweeds, I think we have a huge field to explore and not only on cultivation of course. Cultivation is to guarantee all the raw material, but I think we have a huge potential in terms of bioactive compounds, this is something very important to the medicine, and something like that. Also the bioremediation and the potential of seaweeds for biofiltering, this is great. Integrated aquaculture, this is something that is very very important nowadays and we must search for this kind of solutions for the environment. So, in terms of biofuels, I am not sure yet about the potential. Of course, seaweeds have the potential to be a biofuel but we need more economical and technological and all this kind of studies to be sure if this is OK or not. In my opinion, I think biofuels is something that need to be added in others process. Like integrated aquaculture, you can use the seaweeds for biofiltering fish effluents and after that use this biomass to extract agar or carrageenan and after that use the waste of this extraction to produce biofuels. So this kind of utilization is something that can be really good if we develop good technologies for that. So we have a huge huge huge field to be explored in all that ways in terms of aquaculture engineering, in terms of pharmacy, chemicals and biological, ecological bioremediation. We need to be focused to make good experiments and have good results to be applied to sustainable reasons for the development of this kind of activities.

Why did you choose to work on algae?

I became a biologist because I never imagined my life in a office. I really wanted to be in the nature and study the nature and to be a scientist and investigator, this is one point. And being an algae researcher is something related with a big passion: passion of the sea. And to be near of the sea, work with something that could improve the life of other peoples. But something I really love - that is work on seaweeds - and also give my work to other people to help them, this is my dreamed life. I just joined my passion with my work and the product is that!! I hope this project will be successful and I hope in the next ten years we have a big farm of Kappaphycus here in Brazil. And of course, seaweeds is also because of my Japanese blood. I think I have eaten seaweeds all my life and I really would like to work on this. This is my Japanese way to join my passion, my work and the food I love and my culture, this is all this packet that made me choose to work on seaweeds.



Update! October 2016

Since our first meeting in May 2011, how has the Kappaphycus cultivation project been progressing?

In this past five years, unfortunately we did not progress as we wished or planned. The license is again stuck in the environmental agencies even if we are following their guidelines and make a project expanding the experimental cultivation areas before implanting commercial cultivation. However, we worked during these years very hard in farming technology and also in protocols for environmental monitoring and quarantines.

What are the thematics of your current research?

We have focused our researches in several areas:

  • Integrated aquaculture (IMTA)1: we develop aquaculture of mollusks (mussels and oysters) and cultivate seaweeds in parallel which will provide better environmental conditions in the aquaculture area. We have also developed some buoys technology for this purpose.
  • Brown seaweeds as supplements for shrimps aquaculture: we have fed white-leg shrimp with diets containing some percents of brown seaweeds ()Undaria pinnatifida or Sargassum filipendula) and we have observed that this supplementation can improve the resistance of thermal shock and improve the immunity of shrimps.
  • Biostimulants: we also explore the biostimulant activities of Brazilian seaweeds for agricultural applications.

What is your forecast/predictions for the next coming years for the algae industry and consumption in the world?

Seaweeds are becoming more and more popular, because of general opinion to change the habits and try healthy food. Also in aquaculture, seaweeds are receiving a big importance as one of the most important part of IMTA system. The changing in some communities life also put seaweeds in the light, in social aspects, generating income. The future can be very bright for seaweed industry if researchers, stakeholders, producers and industry could work together.

For more information

  • For learning more about Kappaphycus
  • Local news about the Kappaphycus project in Florianopolis: Article

See also

  • Interview of Prof. Eurico Oliveira, Florianopolis.
  1. IMTA : Integrated Multi Trophic Aquaculture - For more information, see interviews of Alejandro Bushmann and Charles Yarish.