Seaweeds have multifarious commercial usage in various industries

[India] Belying its name, marine plant seaweed is not a weed but a valuable cash crop from which various products can be made for different industrial purposes. The interesting options for its commercial usage in AP are currently being explored by the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) and Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Visakhapatnam.

Seaweeds have several health benefits as they are low in calories and carbohydrate but high in fibre, rich in antioxidants and poly unsaturated fatty acid (good fat), protein, iodine, various minerals and vitamins. They have amino acids as growth-promoting hormones and have anti-cancerous qualities, say scientists.

Seaweeds find multifarious uses besides primary consumption as a vegetable (which is not popular in India unlike other South Asian countries). It is used in encapsulation of medicines, as thickening gel, binding and emulsifying agent (agar and alginate) in the food industry, for cleaning of wine and beer to render its transparency, as health foods from extracts, in textile industry, and the byproduct can be used in organic farming (liquid fertiliser), biofuel and cattle feed.

“Since seaweeds are not a popular item for direct consumption in India, we are looking at alternatives such as fortification in fish seaweed sausage, seaweed grape juice, noodles and seaweed cookies, the technology for which we are developing at CIFT,” said R Raghu Prakash, principal scientist and scientist-in-charge at CIFT-ICAR.

Jesmi Debbarma, a researcher on seaweeds at CIFT, averred: “If seaweed cultivation is integrated with fish culture, it can be used as biofilter (especially Gracilaria, Ulva and Laminaria species) to remove
waste inorganic nutrients and for treatment of sewage and some agro wastes. The extract can be used as a biofertiliser as it has natural growth hormones, NPK and organic micro nutrients. It is also used in the cosmetics industry as it has anti-aging and antioxidant rich properties.”

Agar, alginates (binding agent) and carrageenan as hydrocolloids find wide industrial usage. India’s requirement is around 400 tonnes of agar and 1,000 tonnes of alginate per annum but only 30% and 40%
of it is produced indigenously, respectively. Agar, a gelatin-type substance made from red seaweed, can be used in bakeries and confectionary items, pharma industry, dentistry plant tissue culture and so on, said Madhusudan Rao from CIFT.


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