Mauritius: MRC – Seminar on manufacture of seaweed-based food products

[Mauritius] The manufacture of seaweed-based food products, in line with the Mauritius Research Council’s (MRC) research program on the development of a seaweed industry in Mauritius and Rodrigues, was discussed today during a seminar at Ebène Heights, in Ebène Cyber-city.

An initiative of the MRC, the half-day event brought together more than 30 participants from the public and private sectors and from academia to discuss the following topics: research conceptualisation, technology transfer and developmental uptake of research output; and, manufacture of seaweed-based food products. Resource persons were from the MRC and the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute.

Initiated by the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Unit in June 2010, the manufacture of seaweed-based food products is a research project pertaining to the processing of two local seaweeds, namely: Gracilaria salicornia and Ulva lactuca for consumption.

The first phase comprised the evaluation of different potential processed products including jam, pickle, jelly powder, jelly, drinks and the use of seaweeds as vegetables. Both seaweeds can be consumed in salads or cooked as vegetable. The Gracilaria salicornia and the Ulva lactuca were found suitable for jam in the pure form and mixed with fruits while the Gracilaria salicornia was found suitable for pickle in the pure form and mixed with vegetables.

Nine products were developed during phase two of the project. Nutritional analysis demonstrated that the fresh seaweeds did not contain any fat and sugar, while minerals such as calcium, iodine and sodium were present. Microbiological and shelf life studies indicate that the products were safe for consumption and could be stored for 12-15 months.

Under the project, two booklets, ‘Processing of seaweed Gracilaria salicornia into jam and pickle’ and ‘Processing of seaweed Ulva lactuca into jam’ were published. Also, capacity-building programmes were conducted for 30 potential women entrepreneurs from Mauritius and Rodrigues.

Development of Seaweed Farming and Processing Industry

The MRC has invested substantially in researching avenues for seaweed farming and the development of seaweed derived products both in Mauritius and in Rodrigues since 2008. The scientific and marketing research conducted in the prefeasibility phase have both proved to be quite successful and shown that local seaweed resources can be used for a wide range of applications including human consumption, cosmetics, medical and pharmaceutical uses, plant growth promoter/biofertiliser, and animal feed formulation.

Four experimental seaweed farms have been set up in Mauritius and Rodrigues since November 2011 under the supervision and technical expertise from a resource person from the Institute of Marine Sciences, Zanzibar.

It is anticipated that this new industry will alleviate the problems of increasing fertiliser prices and high costs of pig feed that are being faced by the agricultural community. The technological know-how acquired during this initiative would allow Mauritius to establish itself in the region as a hub for seaweed processing.

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