Seaweed biorefinery project launched in Ghana

[Ghana] A landmark project to cultivate seaweed for the production of biofuel and pharmaceutical products has been launched in Ghana.

Scheduled to start later this month, the project which is a first of its kind in Africa, will establish the cultivation of seaweed along Ghana’s 540 km coastline and establish relevant
technology, develop local know-how and bring new business opportunities.

The project, by a team of experts from the Technical University of Denmark, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is also expected to tackle the energy needs of Ghana and beyond.

Ghana Coordinator for the project, Dr Moses Mensah, said locally available enzymes will be used in the extraction of the useful materials from the seaweed.

“The cultivated seaweed will go through a number of processes that will be done at the chemical engineering department to extract the nutrients”, he explained.

Anti-cancer, anti-tumor and immune-response chemicals, according to Dr Mensah, are among nutrients that can be extracted from the seaweed.

In the nutshell, the project involves the following key steps

  1. The identification of the most suitable seaweed species for cultivation;
  2. Screening of indigenous enzyme-producing microorganisms;
  3. Development of optimal processing waste of bioenergy production;
  4. Integration of production of various seaweed products, and
  5. Sustainability assessment of the effects of seaweed production on coastal communities of Ghana.

Director of CSIR-Water Research Institute, Dr Joseph Addo Ampofo, said at the launch that apart from the production of biofuels, other extracts from the seaweed could also be used for industrial purposes.

He adds: “In Ghana currently management of our coastlines is at a critical juncture. Even when it has to fulfill essential roles in promoting development, reducing poverty and conserving environment at the national, municipal and district levels, our shores are scarcely financially utilised, but congested, polluted, mismanaged, misgoverned and poorly cherished”.

He was therefore hopeful that the seaweed cultivation project would help to end the depletion of Ghana’s coastlines.

In recent times, the shores of Ghana have been experiencing an unprecedented increase in the beaching of seaweed identified as Sargassum sp., and commonly called brown algae particularly in the Western Region.

Fishermen along the western coast of the Western Region say the recent invasion of seaweed has been affecting their livelihood.


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