South Sulawesi’s fisheries looking for innovation to drive productivity

The head of South Sulawesi’s fisheries division is looking for innovation that will help create sustainable sea-based industries.


That was the clear message from Muhammad Ilyas, the head of the province’s Marine Affairs and Fisheries Department when meeting with researchers from the PAIR commodity project.

“I am interested in science and the goal is to find solutions based on science,” he told the room of his and Australia-Indonesia Centre staff, and the PAIR seaweed research team.

The research team presented their findings on the seaweed industry to Dr Ilyas in Makassar this month, which included a deep discussion on how technology such as satellite imagery can be used to better understand production zones.

The team used the high-quality imagery over three and a half years to map production areas off the coast of South Sulawesi, the first time it had been used this way.

According to PAIR associate fellow Alexandra Langford, the imagery could be used to detect trends and whether policy decisions have an impact.

“We could use this to see the impact of government programs on seaweed villages. For instance, If a new technology or program is implemented you might be able to see what happens in terms of production levels,” said Dr Langford.

A truer picture of production areas would also help policymakers with the current consideration of zoning laws and providing fair access to marine space.


Dr Muhammad Ilyas, South Sulawesi Marine Affairs and Fisheries Department, outlining some of the current satellite technology used. Image: Helen Brown AIC


The meeting also discussed how the images provide a more accurate picture of production, and that an over-estimation seemed to be occurring.

“We don’t have the resources to travel far and the distances required to cover the sea producing area, so satellite images can be very helpful,” said Dr Ilyas.

According to associate fellow Syamsul Pasaribu, this is where technical innovation can help improve the whole seaweed supply chain.

“We should have imagery that is close to the subject or of a high quality in order to make a calculation. Again this is an opportunity for the department, especially for monitoring and estimating production,” said Dr Syamsul.

The research team explained how it was also important to understand yield along with production and to consider if seaweed farmers needed incentives to produce high-quality raw material.

The meeting discussed emerging technology they were investigating which could potentially measure quality characteristics within seaweed. The near-infrared spectroscopy is currently used in the coffee industry, and the test is whether it can measure factors in seaweed such as sand contamination, dryness and carrageenan levels. (Carrageenan is the product in the seaweed which is sought after for use in food production).

One of the current problems is that farmers are paid on weight, which means that it does not make sense for them to dry out their seaweed to an optimal level. However if they were paid for dryness levels, rather than weight, it could create a way to deliver more upstream value to the seaweed producer.

“We did a price analysis test in the Indonesian seaweed industry and there is no quality correlation in the market. So if farmers produce better, drier seaweed they don’t get a better price,” said Dr Langford.

Senior fellow and research co-lead Scott Waldron pointed out that any benefits of a quick assessment tool would be dependent on traders using it and being willing to pay prices based on quality.

Associate Professor Waldron said the technology was in the early stages for seaweed, but was one example of driving professionalism within the industry.

Feature image: Dr Muhammad Ilyas, South Sulawesi Marine Affairs and Fisheries Department, Dr Hasnawati Saleh, AIC, A/Prof. Scott Waldron, Dr Alexandra Langford and Dr Kustiariyah Tarman, IPB University. Image: Marlene Millott, AIC.

Picture of Helen Brown

Lead, Communications and Engagement AIC