Griffith Agribusiness’ most recent recruit, Dr Zannie Langford, is set to take the lead on a new project, exploring climate change resilience strategies for seaweed farmers in Indonesia.

Seaweed farming is Indonesia’s largest marine aquacultural industry, but the variability of ocean conditions and the impact of rainfall on seaweed production mean that it is already an industry characterised by risk.

As seasonal patterns become harder to predict, widespread seaweed death and significant losses of product are becoming more common, impacting the 62,000 coastal households currently involved in the industry.

Dr. Zannie Langford with locals in Indonesia

Dr Langford has been awarded a grant through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Knowledge Partnership Program to extend her work on developing an approach to seaweed mapping using satellite imagery.

The research will develop computer vision and machine-learning tools for analysis of satellite imagery to monitor seaweed production, undertake ground-truthing of production estimates using oceanographic measurements and farm production diaries, and explore community perceptions of climate variability and their resilience strategies to identify interventions.

“The impacts of climate change on seaweed production not only affects farmers, but also thousands of wage labourers whose job it is to attach the seaweed to ropes, often women with caring responsibilities, elderly people, and other vulnerable groups,” Dr Langford said.

“Despite the importance of seaweed farming to coastal livelihoods, accurate national production data by location and month is not available, which inhibits evidence-based policy making. Satellite imagery is well-established for monitoring land use change but is not yet possible for marine aquaculture except across small areas.

“Our multi-disciplinary team has the expertise in machine learning, agricultural economics, remote sensing, qualitative and quantitative social research, and applied biophysical research needed for an integrated approach.

A labourer drying seaweed

“This project also has a strong capacity development component, as part of which we will be training six new junior researchers from Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi in social research methodologies.”

Dr Langford is the newest addition to the Griffith Agribusiness team, having recently received a postdoctoral fellowship for her project studying technology-driven changes in development financing in Indonesia and the Pacific.

She has previously undertaken a range of academic and applied research projects on land tenure, global value chains, smallholder agribusiness, and rural development financing.

13: Climate Action
UN Sustainable Development Goals 13: Climate Action