Seaweeds are highly in demand and low in production. A sector that has to be tapped which is much required as an alternative to various products that are polluting the planet. Seaweeds are macroalgae meaning those that are visible to the naked eye and benthic meaning that which holds or stick or grow on the sea bed. The size of the smallest seaweed is about few millimeters to centimeters while the largest ones can grow upto a length of 30-50 meters. There are 3 major groups of algae : phacophyceae (brown algae),chlorophyta (green algae)and rhodophyta (red algae). Though they come in various colors they all contain chlorophyll granules . There are about 1800 types of brown macroalgae, 6200 red and 1800 green macroalgae. Research has been done on only few and only these few are consumed by humans and cultivated. The industry is in developmental stage.
Totally worldwide, in a total of about 132 countries seaweed cultivable land is about 48 million km² of the marine ecosystem, but only 37-44 countries are into active seaweed production (Froehlich et al. 2019). It is currently one of the fast-growing sectors in the world. The annual global production is about 32.9 billion tons with a global market of US$ 11.8 billion and the forecast shows by the year 2024 it will reach around US$ 22.13 billion. Each year seeing a growth rate of 8.9%. Though world bank estimates the production could reach 500M dry tons by 2050 if the market can increase it's harvest by 14% per year.
Seaweed in dry form has longer shelf life and hence transporting is easy. Like all green plants, seaweed converts sunlight into chemical energy through photosynthesis, and then the formation of the sugar glucose follows. It uses the carbon dioxide in the water along with phosphorus, nitrogen and various other minerals. Seaweed is like a piece of foam. It sucks everything from the water. Like all plants it releases oxygen, which is a by-product. Oxygen dissolves in the water, and escapes into the atmosphere. Seaweeds that are partially dried or dehydrated can also carry the process of photosynthesis.
Seaweed gets all the nutrients required to grow from the water. Like plants they don't need roots, stems or real leaves to help them grow. the global ecosystem is benefitted greatly by seaweeds. Earth having 3/4 th water, the algae along with phytoplankton produces 90 per cent of the oxygen in air and is upto 80 per cent of Earth's organic matter. Seaweeds can absorb greenhouse gases along with carbon dioxide in the water, thus cleaning the water of all pollutants (fisheries.noaa.gov). Seaweed farming is fast growing as one of the leading aquaculture sector. With high demand for them in many industries and being sustainable it is the most wanted product now. Seaweed farming benefits many locals near the water bodies, especially those into marine activities, new and young entrepreneurs, in some places it is job only for the women according to their culture, supports many rural and coastal communities and our environment. With the ability to clear polluted water, setting up of these farms and with the help of the communities improve water quality. It also helps buffer the effects of ocean acidification in the surrounding areas. Cultivation of these marine plants will help reduce heavy metals and other pollutants caused in the coastal areas ,due to factories, machineries, polluting chemicals discharged by farms, factories and wastewater treatment plants.
One thing we can't miss about the seaweeds are it's fishy smell or sea smell, but which is very useful for the environment. It is very interesting to know that the odor from the seaweed is DMS (di methyl sulfide) a volatile gas that is a by-product of DMSP ( di methyl sulfonio propionete) breakdown. It is when DMSP is oxidized in the air or it is degraded due to bacterial action. This DMS that is generated from the decomposition of the macroalgae, causes condensation of water vapor. This brings about cloud formation and thus affecting the weather (seaweed: edible, available, and sustainable by Ole.g.mouritser, published by the university of Chicago). A very important role played by these marine plants, tells us why we should cultivate these plants.
1) Seaweeds such as dulse, bull kelp, ribbon kelp and sugar kelp are used for sushis, salsas, sauces, salads, etc.
2) Farmed seaweed is used in cosmetics,animal feed and fertilizers.
3) Source of biofuel to replace fossil fuels. Seaweed is highly suitable for biofuel. Biofuel made from seaweed are used by latest electric cars.
4) It's the new source for bioplastics. The component of seaweed is used in making of bioplastics is polysaccharides
5) Being 85-90% of water, it is very suitable for making methods like anaerobic digestion to make biogas
6)Useful for fermentation to make ethanol. Brown algae contains laminarin, which is of industrial importance as it can be fermented to make alcohol.
7) Seaweed mineral content is 10 times higher than plants growning on soil. . They contain carbohydrates, fiber, proteins, fats, and a number of large different minerals and vitamins. Hence those who regularly eat seaweed seldom suffer from mineral deficiencies.
Though like with everything else anything in excess is bad. So be careful of what you eat and how. Taking advice from a specialist is better. Self medication could be dangerous.
The global demand for food and industrial raw materials is growing fast and subsequently the pressure on land by extensive agriculture and exhausting raw materials will increase, causing ecological disasters and political instability. Seaweed can be a relative alternative for land-based products in many ways once the production reaches a higher level at sea. Dr.Van Hal the scientific co-ordinator of EU funded 'Macrofuels', is working on many innovative ways on how he can use seaweed biofuels for the whole automobile industry. From the raw material stage to the final product such as, the cultivation stage, the production and as well as the testing. He is the brains behind the developing of the Toyota seaweed kelp car 1/X th, completely made of seaweed bioplastics except the frames. The car was to be released in 2020 but we haven't yet heard of it. Now he's working on how he could incorporate in the similar way for heavy machinery like trucks and ships. Dr.Van Hal also says that managing a 10 acre seaweed farm is like managing a 1000 acre farm. To make this project a reality, requires huge supply of seaweeds. For those interested to know more, kindly go on to his company website.
There is huge demand for seaweeds but less production, though it is gaining momentum in all sectors due to the concentration on sustainability and saving the planet. Mainly because it is a good alternative for fossil fuels and plastics. Each day there are new entrepreneurs joining this circle. Entrepreneurs can privately grow seaweeds in their own farms without destroying the eco system. For the past few years renewable energy is sourced from biofuel obtained on or from land. This requires a lot of land, requires proper irrigation facilities, waste treatments, protect from heat and sun sometimes, requires pesticides and fertilizers and the worst of all destroying land and environment. So nowadays many countries are looking largely towards ocean-based resources for bio-fuel especially Europe. As by now you all will know that algae and seaweed, need nothing but saltwater and sun to grow. Currently this sector is vastly growing and more innovation is being done rapidly, such as weedburger, so the business has shifted from using whole seaweeds to using different molecules they contain for various purposes. New innovations such as weedburger are coming up.Growing trend for weed burger for vegans
Well the industry is still in a developmental stage and more research is required in different individual products. Due to the growing of seaweed cultivation many were of the opinion that seaweed reduces the minerals and nutrients from the surrounding places. Hence a team of researchers made a study at the Kosterhavet national Park, Sweden, location of a seaweed farm - They found that the seaweed cultivation had a very minimal impact on the environment. The research also proved that with regard to dissolved inorganic nutrient concentration too, was very low and so was the benthic oxygen flux compared to the normal natural fluctuations. So this proves that it is not harmful to the environment. Research students who are interested in doing their thesis can further work on this subject. Understanding more about these plants, their effects on the environment, will make way for more development, innovation, the seaweed effects and better management as this sector is going to boom soon. Further more we will be able to understand farming and the effects on the environment at different temporal.
For centuries the seaweed cultivation has played a vital role for especially the coastal communities. It was being harvested and collected by traditional methods from places close to them along the shoreline. In the past it was used only for food, fertilizer, animal feed and traditional compost. Now as times have changed and increase in research, seaweeds are used for many applications and hence the high demand for them. There are more than 10,000 species, but very few are commercially utilized. While some farmers setup their farms professional and with good knowledge or good technical labour with all the rules and regulations in place, there are some in the coastal areas farming in the wild. These do not take special care to check on their growth etc. These harvest those which are grown in the wild. It is an integral role in many coastal societies, often being intrinsically linked to the cultural identity of those coastal communities. In such cases the wild seaweeds maybe sucking in toxins and heavy metal such as Mercury, which could be dangerous to those who are consuming it. Health authorities have warned consumers against eating 'hijiki' , a Japanese seaweed known to absorb dangerous levels of arsenic. Seaweed companies that have an organic certification are safer as the seaweed harvesting is done in protected coastal areas, from any shipping routes or regular water activities and effluent sites,32 countries actively harvest seaweeds from wild stocks, with over 800 000 tons harvested annually from natural beds. It is very important that seaweeds are utilized sustainably and not destroy the natural resources. Due to increase in seaweed harvesting and traditional methods reducing, care should be taken while using modern technology and make sure that the sustainability of the resource is ensured. Sometimes there are resource ownership issues, in such cases the government put blocks of stone to mark each ones area for harvesting. Care should be taken so that there is no over exploitation and the implementation of environmentally damaging harvesting techniques must be avoided. To maintain the sustainability in this industry, we, the youngsters, NGOs, scientists, conservationists, governments, and other stakeholders need to be watchful in the most vulnerable areas, which could be the most important ones resources.
1) Over removal of seaweed biomass can have negative ecological response
2) Reduced density of seaweed thalli
3) Increase impurities
4) Varying degrees of change in the associated flora and fauna
5) The large structural seaweeds offer protection for some marine species from predators allowing them to take refuge from desiccation at low tide
6) Reduce the tidal surge and hazardous waves that cause coastline erosion and sedimentation rates, by dampening the incoming energy. Protecting the coasts.
7) Transfer of organic materials in the ecosystem
8) Decreasing eutrophication of coastal waters
9) Managed farms could protect the algae from overgrazing sea urchins which could leave the place barren for kilometers that could take decades to recover
Seaweed farming has been done in large quantities mostly in Asia. Recently it has been sprouting in waters in New England, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. At initial approximate cost of setting up a seaweed farm would be minimum of $20,000. Of course the licences, other documentations could vary from place to place. This could give one a start and an electric boat. For those setting up, it is advisable that you get your buyer, partners or investors to guarantee the purchase of seaweeds. The seaweed farming offers an opportunity to start a new business or diversify a farming operation. Farmers can reap large harvests using vertical, or 3D farming in a small area. According to 'guardian' seaweed farmers are using a system called 3D ocean farming which grows seaweed and shellfish together on long vertical floating ropes. The blueprint for 3D ocean farming can grow 10 tons of seaweed and 150,000 shellfish in an acre per year. Growing seaweed this way requires little maintenance, little feed and no fertilizers say designer Bren Smith a seaweed farmer at Connecticut. He founded a non profit co-op called Greenwave and won the prestigious Buckminster Fuller Institute for his 3D blueprint. Unlike in commercial seaweed farming, seaweed can be grown in certain areas solely for this reason in polluted areas with the sole aim of improving the health of coastal ecosystem and not meant to be eaten, this way can also save the planet.
For knowing more about this industry you can contact your local bureau of fisheries and aquatic resources. There are other well-known companies that are willing to help in form of consultation:-
•Hortimare a company in Netherlands is a supplier of high quality starting material to enable seaweed farmers to harvest good yields. They advise, support, and collaborate closely with seaweed farmers in order for them to expand and scale up to essential volumes to make seaweed a competitive alternative for land-based products . Whether you need a consultant to help you out start your own seaweed farm or you need hatching material or you need a certain breed of seaweed variety according to your specific needs you can contact them. One can get advice from them for a reasonable fee.
•Greenwave.org ( can subscribe to their newletter to be updated with the latest updates in the industry). You can get more information on their website.
Hope you'll enjoyed reading this. Many things could not be covered in this due to the vastness of the subject. I've tried to keep it brief. Shall be discussing more on specific products in my upcoming blogs.
1) Euro News
5) Sub Sea Food
6) TandF Online
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