Seaweed: sustainable crop of the future? December 11, 2020
Seaweed farming has many advantages over traditional tillage farming, it doesn’t require land like commercial forestry and cereal crops, it requires minimal maintenance, there’s no need to provide fertilisers, heating, extra light or even watering. Seaweeds grow faster than terrestrial plants, absorbing and storing nutrients in its polysaccharides. If temperature and sunlight fluctuate, seaweed will adapt, altering its composition for optimal photosynthesis and survival. Seaweed looks after itself. The seaweed industry is in its infancy in Europe, but it is a growing industry particularly in Norway, where seaweed researchers and farmers believe a long coastline and clean, cold waters mean seaweed has the potential to be a significant and environmentally friendly industry.
The Financial Times have produced a short video report on the enormous potential seaweed farming has in Norway. In the video, Sondre Sivertsen reports from a visit to GENIALG partner Jon Funderud, CEO of Seaweed Solutions at their 19-hectare kelp farm in Frøya, Norway. Seaweed Solutions are seaweed cultivators and produce sustainable food, animal feed, bioplastics and biofuels. Jon demonstrates the seaweed farming process, from collection of plants, to seed production in the lab and dispersing seeded lines at the farm. Jon explained, “We’re talking about a plant that grows faster than any land plant. Seaweed doesn’t need any feed, there’s no fertiliser, no pesticides, no freshwater media, no land use. So, it’s very resource efficient production and it’s as sustainable as food production can get”. Their spring harvest normally yields about 150 tonnes of seaweed, that’s half the total volume of seaweed harvested in Norway!
Sondre then travels to Trondheim to fellow GENIALG partner SINTEF where he meets senior research scientists, Silje Forbord and Antonio Alvaro. SINTEF are working to improve seaweed farming efficiency through onsite technology, mechanisation and improved breeding programmes. Silje shows how they can trick seaweeds plants to produce seeds out of season by simulating the seasons in experimental tanks, with one small plant potentially producing several thousand kilos of seaweed biomass!