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Sports Seaweed: The food and fuel of the future?

6 min read
Image copyright Adrienne Murray Image caption The cold water around the Faroe Islands is good for seaweed cultivation Sunshine has given way to wind and rain, as the motorboat chugs through a fjord in the Faroe Islands. "Its a bit windy here," says Olavur Gregarsen. "We'll see how far we can get to the harvesting…
Sports Seaweed: The food and fuel of the future?


sports Seaweed farming Faroe IslandsImage copyright
Adrienne Murray

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The cool water spherical the Faroe Islands is valid for seaweed cultivation

Sunshine has given formulation to wind and rain, as the motorboat chugs by device of a fjord within the Faroe Islands.

“Its a minute windy right here,” says Olavur Gregarsen. “We’ll scrutinize how a ways we are capable of obtain to the harvesting boat.”

We quickly attain a sheltered space the set up steep mountains are having a gape down on a full bunch of buoys bobbing within the sea.

“They are maintaining a horizontal line,” explains Mr Gregarsen, the managing director of Ocean Rainforest, a seaweed producer. “At every metre one other line hangs down, and that’s the explanation the set up the seaweed grows.”

Sports Breaking waves

Anchored to the sea ground, the cultivation rig consists of 50,000m (164,000toes) of underwater lattice-like ropes, designed to withstand rough sea instances.

“The major construction is 10m down. That formulation we set up a ways flung from the greatest breaking waves,” he says.

Despite the Danish territory’s a ways flung North Atlantic situation, Mr Gregarsen says the deep, nutrient-well off, waters are like minded to rising seaweed, with a stable temperature of between 6C and 11C.

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Adrienne Murray

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Ocean Rainforest plans to double production

His company is among a wave of seaweed farms which secure sprung up in Europe and North The United States, spurred by a rising inquire of from the food change and others.

“You will secure a biomass that will also be used for food and feed, and changing fossil-based products like packaging field materials from plastic,” he says.

Sports Mechanisation

Seaweeds are quickly-rising algae. They utilise vitality from sunlight, and soak up vitamins and carbon dioxide from the seawater. Scientists counsel seaweed would possibly per chance well lend a hand fight local climate change and offset carbon emissions.

Ocean Rainforest fair no longer too long ago received funding from the US Department of Energy to invent a identical system in California, the set up there would possibly be hobby in increasing industrialised seaweed production for future biofuels.

Aboard the harvesting boat the skipper controls a mechanical arm that lifts traces from the water. The seaweed is chopped free, filling up containers. Or no longer it’s hasty but messy work. The traces are then left to regrow. This Three hundred and sixty five days spherical 200 tonnes can be harvested.

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Adrienne Murray

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Ocean Rainforest fair no longer too long ago received funding from the US Department of Energy

But the company is scaling up, and plans to double its capability this Three hundred and sixty five days. It’s now not any longer making money honest yet, but expects to quickly, Mr Gregarsen tells me.

“We can scrutinize how we are capable of mechanise this, how we are capable of kill this a terribly good-scale efficient exercise,” he says.

“There are no longer many companies that originate this as a worthwhile change, if any.”

Sports Cosmetics and medicines

Seaweed desires to be processed quickly. At a puny plant within the Faroese village of Kaldbak, machines fine the harvest. Some is dried and supplied to food producers. The relaxation is fermented and shipped to animal feed producers.

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Adrienne Murray

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Seaweed is used to kill food components, textiles and gasoline

Most farmed seaweed is consumed in food, but extracts are used in a wide diversity of products. Whether or no longer it is toothpaste, cosmetics, medicines or pet food, these in total enjoy hydrocolloids derived from seaweed, which secure gelling or thickening properties.

And more products are coming, with varied companies engaged on textiles and plastic decisions, in conjunction with biodegradable packaging, water capsules, and ingesting straws.

Extra Technology of Industry

Seaweed production has boomed. Between 2005 and 2015 volumes doubled, surpassing 30 million tonnes yearly, studies the UN’s Meals and Agriculture Organization. It’s miles a change price more than $6bn (£5bn) worldwide.

Yet entirely a allotment of cultivation happens outside Asia, the set up farming is a long-established, but mostly labour-intensive exercise.

Sports ‘Lots of effort’

“The labour tag is de facto high in Europe, in train that’s one major half of it,” explains Annette Bruhn, who’s a senior scientist at Aarhus University in Denmark.

“Lots of effort desires to be accumulate into mechanisation and upscaling.”

To kill farming economical, she says “the yield desires to head up and the tag desires to head down”.

But farming techniques don’t seem to be easily replicated. “Diversified areas in varied waters, all require changes. There’s now not any longer one resolution that will also be anticipated to fit all,” says Ms Bruhn.

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Harald Bjorgvin

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Seaweed uses carbon dioxide from the sea

Alternatively, she is hopeful, and says there are “many areas the set up you potentially can additionally secure breakthroughs”.

That is what innovators like Sintef strive to originate. The Norwegian scientific study crew is engaged on novel applied sciences to streamline farming.

“Now loads of the seaweed is used for food, but in due route we desire to make exercise of it for fish feed, fertilisers, biogas. We’d like good volumes and we desire to design grand sooner,” says study scientist Silje Forbord.

Sports Dry lab

Prototype machines equivalent to the “seaweed spinner” automatically wrap spools of seedling-carrying threads onto traces, ready for deployment at sea.

One other belief, SPoke (Standardized Manufacturing of Kelp), consists of spherical farm modules the set up seaweed grows from traces radiating outwards. It’s miles designed so a robotic can transfer along the wheel-like spokes – both attaching threads carrying juvenile seaweed or harvesting it.

“We have constructed one arm with a robotic going backward and forward. That has been tested in a dry lab,” explains Ms Forbord, but more investment can be wished.

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Land-based seaweed cultivation

In a series of ponds and tanks in northern Portugal, AlgaPlus is cultivating seaweed inland.

“Or no longer it is a grand more managed atmosphere,” says managing director Helena Abreu, who thinks there are more advantages when in contrast to farming offshore.

“We set up the temperature and all the issues internal the tanks,” she says. “You will secure Three hundred and sixty five days-spherical production.”

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Ms Abreu says no components or fertilisers are used

Ms Abreu co-based the company after spending five years as a marine biologist within the Azores. Tiny, high-cost seaweeds are produced for food companies, cosmetics makers and high-stay restaurants.

Sports Innovation

Seawater from a coastal lagoon flows into fish ponds. It’s miles then pumped by device of a filtration system into tanks rising seaweed. There’s also a hatchery breeding the seedlings.

“We needed to innovate from scratch,” she says.

These waters are well off in nitrogen, which the algae soak up, mimicking nature. “We carry out no longer secure to make exercise of any components, no fertiliser. We exercise water from the fish to develop our seaweed,” she says.

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AlgaPlus produces puny, high-cost seaweeds

Ms Abreu doesn’t judge availability of land is a limiting ingredient. Ragged salt works and fish farms would possibly per chance well additionally very well be repurposed, she says, citing there are hectares of availability in Portugal, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Onshore seaweed farming takes situation in Canada and South Africa too. Micro-algae are also grown in tank techniques.

But there are varied challenges.

“The major bottleneck is vitality tag. Working with tanks you want the pumping and the aeration to set up the water fascinating,” says Ms Abreu.

The company can’t live to teach the tale on sales on my own honest yet. But Ms Abreu is joyful that the seaweed market will proceed to develop.

“Or no longer it is a broad model,” she says. “Every Three hundred and sixty five days there would possibly be an increasing selection of companies. There are rookies in all steps of the associated price chain.”

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