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Do you fancy seaweed-based food?

Seaweed wraps on a bowl with chopsticks. World Sustainability Collective

Yesterday I explained how Ocean Cleanup were removing plastic and other debris from the ocean and commented on the initiative in Scotland for visitors to beaches to collect debris and recycle it.

I visited the beaches in Angus last month and they were very debris free BUT they were covered in seaweed!

None of us really like seaweed it smells and it is slimey but there is a significant business opportunity

At present, most seaweed is grown in Asia. But the North Sea, between the UK’s east coast and the European continent, is an attractive location for growing seaweed. This sea is rich in nutrients. Seaweed can be processed to food, useful substances and biogas. However, we need innovations in order for this business to become competitive.

One of these innovations is being tested this year in Northern Netherlands’ Eemshaven. In this test, seaweed grows in special nets that protect the seeds and little plants. Seaweed farms will be operated more easily by using this dedicated basket. There are far-reaching plans to construct such farms on the North Sea in wind parks, of which a number are under construction right now.

Seas are often rough at those locations, far out at sea. The seeds and little plants need protection as they grow. The idea is to grow the crop in between the turbines, where shipping will be restricted anyway. And to harvest the crop when ships visit the wind park for repair and maintenance.

Seaweed as a nutrient is on the rise. For instance, it can be served as if it were a pasta, like developed by Seamore company.

There are many seaweed species; they can be used as an alternative to bacon, as a wrap, as a taste enhancer; and in processed form as a mayonnaise. A growing number of people are reviewing their eating habits, for reasons of health and sustainability – then, seaweed offers important opportunities.

Another significant application with some seaweed species is to mix it with grass or sillage as feed for cows. Tests have shown that this feed causes less methane emissions by ruminant cows.

Seaweed contains proteins and sugars; nutrients that can be processed to fertilizer. Side products can be turned into biogas.

A major challenge to such processes is the amount of salt water in seaweed. However, the good news is that the universities of Exeter and Bath have developed a process that doesn’t require the salty water to be removed. They use acid and alkaline catalysts in the process to produce sugars, and pyrolysis in processing the side product into bio-oil and fertilizer. The process that the researchers have developed still needs to be scaled up nevertheless it’s a promising development for this nascent Bio business

And an added bonus!

This technology not just processes the seaweed, but also the plastics that often come with weed harvested on beaches

Do you fancy seaweed-based food?

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