The Seaweed Carrier, developed by Seaweed Solutions, uses specially designed sheet structures to cultivate seaweed in exposed waters. This opens up for large-scale production using mechanical harvesting solutions.
By 2050, an additional 2 billion people will need to be fed. Today, 98 per cent of the world’s food energy comes from agriculture on land. Moreover, agriculture accounts for 10 to 12 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – emitting more than all cars, trucks, trains and airplanes combined.
Oceans, meanwhile, cover more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface. They are filled with nutrient-dense plants, including seaweed, which may be one of the largest unexploited resources on the planet.
Cultivation of seaweed mainly takes place in Asia using manual labour. The cultivation ropes are, however, poorly suited for strong currents and harvesting is done from small boats.
The Seaweed Carrier from Seaweed Solutions (SES) is an internationally patented solution for cultivating kelp on a specially designed sheet-like structure. It basically copies a very large seaweed plant, moving freely back and forth through the sea allowing for seaweed cultivation in deeper and more exposed waters.
SES has been involved in cultivation research in nine locations from Portugal to North Norway, acquiring key knowledge and data on seaweed farming potential in different environments.
Controlled, large-scale cultivation of seaweed has been proven feasible in Asia (30 million metric tons cultivated per year). Technological advances such as the Seaweed Carrier can cut high labour costs in Europe and the US, helping to make seaweed cultivation commercially viable in other parts of the world.
Moreover, development of mechanical harvesting solutions can enable mass seaweed cultivation at industrial scale, without occupying valuable land area.
Offshore seaweed cultivation also offers numerous environmental benefits. Among other things, no fertiliser is needed. On the contrary, seaweed enhances water quality and reduces acidity by absorbing CO₂ and important “lost” nutrients, including phosphorus from land-based agriculture.
The global commercial seaweed market is projected to reach USD 21.75 billion by 2025, mainly driven by increased interest from the food and beverage industry. In addition to being both a delicacy and a good source of bulk proteins, seaweed can be processed into biofuel, fibres for the textile industry and alternatives to plastic and other oil-based products.
SES is in the process of commercialising its technology. In Norway, the company has built an industrial-scale seaweed hatchery and breeding centre as well as a pilot farm which is one of the largest seaweed cultivation farms Europe.
SES is currently participating in projects funded under the EU’s SME Instrument phase 2 and Horizon 2020.