GENetic diversity exploitation for Innovative Macro-ALGal biorefinery

SAMS’s experimental seaweed farms are pioneering investigations into viable seaweed cultivation

During the second annual meeting of the Scottish Seaweed Industry Association (SSIA), which took place in November 2017, seaweed scientist Dr Adrian MacLeod discussed about SAMS’s two experimental seaweed farms, where researchers are leading investigations into the biology of algae, the conditions in which it grows and the possibility of automating this process. The overall aim of this project is to develop viable seaweed cultivation methods. Although this research is still undergoing, SAMS scientists are confident that “a seaweed cultivation industry for Scotland is a very realistic prospect in the coming years.”

Walter Speirs, the chairman of the Scottish Seaweed Industry, shares this confidence and, moreover, points to many similarities between the current seaweed cultivation and the then-emerging shellfish industry of the 1980s: “I started in the shellfish industry in 1985 and there was a lot of pioneering and unproven work going on. Some people were sceptical and laughed at our efforts to grow mussels, but it grew into a large industry.”

On the one hand, demand is vital in order to continue funding new and advanced ways of researching algae, their cultivation and applications. With seaweed now used across many industries from food to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, demand is certainly there. On the other hand, what is needed for the advancement of viable seaweed cultivation is pioneers, i.e. “people who will take a risk and plough that single track”, emphases Walter Speirs.

And, speaking of such pioneers, the researchers at SAMS’s experimental seaweed farms are hoping their investigations will contribute to overcoming barriers to making seaweed cultivation an economically viable option going forward.

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