The Scottish Association for Marine Science has joined forces with EU peers from 10 other countries to develop a new textile that the partners believe can revolutionise seaweed farming.
The team will now begin cultivation, including at a trial site off Oban, Scotland. The idea is to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of open sea cultivation of seaweed.
Currently, seaweed is obtained by harvesting wild seaweed or by rope-based cultivation. Both methods are labour-intensive and with relatively low yields. The new technology – developed under the EU-funded AT~SEA (Advanced Textiles for Open Sea Biomasss Cultivation) project – uses advanced textiles whereby plants are grown on large platforms, held a couple of metres below the sea surface. This method produced yields of up to 16kg of wet seaweed per square metre – three to five times the yield of traditional seaweed farming.
In addition, the new textiles’ bio-sources coatings protect the young seaweed and prevent the growth of unwanted plants or molluscs. When the seaweed is fully grown, ship-based machines cut the plants from the mats and direct them to flexible storage tanks made from the same textiles.
Project coordinator Bert Groenendaal from Belgium-based Sioen Industries said, “The economic potential for seaweed is huge. Businesses are interested in seaweed for many different applications such as food and food additives, animal feed, chemicals and even fuel.”
Large-scale seaweed farming could also have a positive impact on the ocean’s ecosystem. Farmed seaweed can help absorb excess CO2 in seawater and waste nutrients from nearby fish farms. It also provides safe habitats for wild fish and shellfish that might otherwise be threatened by fishing.
Photo caption: A new textile has been developed which could revolutionise seaweed farming. Credit: Gary Houston/CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
View original article at: Seaweed farming revolution