Comparative production and nutritional value of "sea grapes" - the tropical green seaweeds Caulerpa lentillifera and C. racemosa.
"Sea grapes" is a collective term for the edible varieties of the green seaweed genus Caulerpa. Here we conduct comparative analyses of the biomass productivities and biochemical properties of C. lentillifera and C. racemosa from tropical Australia. Commercial-scale production was evaluated using 1 m2 culture units with high stocking densities (>5 kg m-2). Productivity of C. lentillifera in a 6-week period yielded, on average, 2 kg week-1, whereas C. racemosa yielded <0.5 kg week-1. Morphometric comparisons of the harvestable biomass revealed that C. lentillifera had a higher proportion of fronds (edible portions) to horizontal runners (stolons) and a higher density of fronds per unit area. C. racemosa fronds, however, were significantly longer. The nutritional value of C. racemosa was higher than C. lentillifera for both polyunsaturated fatty acids (10.6 vs. 5.3 mg g-1 DW) and pigments (9.4 vs. 4.2 mg g-1 DW). The content of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and β-carotene decreased with increasing frond size in both species. Trace element contents also varied substantially between the species, including higher levels of zinc, magnesium and strontium in C. lentillifera, and higher levels of selenium in C. racemosa. Some less desirable elements were higher in C. lentillifera, including arsenic (1 vs. 0.1 ppm) and cadmium, whereas others were higher in C. racemosa, including lead, copper and vanadium. Overall C. lentillifera has a high biomass production potential in monoculture and distinct nutritional properties that warrant a focus on its commercialisation as a new aquaculture product in tropical Australia and in Southeast Asia more broadly.