Innovator makes entire house out of Sargassum bricks

Meet Omar Sánchez Vázquez, a nursery owner in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Recently Omar built an entire house made from seaweed bricks.

Sargassum is a brown seaweed that has recently exploded in abundance and has taken over beaches and even ports throughout Mexico. The seaweed boom is attributed to warming waters and nutrient runoff from onshore agriculture. The problem has gotten so bad that hotel chains have spent millions to clean the beaches and the Mexican navy has started “attacking” the massive rafts of Sargassum out at sea. Where most people saw the Sargassum as a problem Omar saw an opportunity. He designed an organic, thermal and functional construction material. The same technique used to make adobe bricks is used to make Sargassum bricks, however, the Sargassum bricks are 50% cheaper than adobe. Omar claims these Sargassum bricks are hard enough to withstand a hurricane. And in case you were wondering, the bricks don’t smell like rotting seaweed says Omar in an interview.

New study shows promise that Sargassum sp. improves blood biochemistry profiles

Marine algae have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and anti-cancer potential. Sargassum sp. is a type of brown algae that possess pharmacological properties, such as anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral activities. These pharmacological properties are a result of the biological activity of metabolites such as alkaloids, steroids, terpenoids, saponins, polyphenols, phlorotannin, and fucoidan.

In a recent study, researchers used a rat model to assess treating in vivo stress (swimming model) with Sargassum by measuring levels of glucose, triacylglycerol, total cholesterol, and cortisol, and liver histopathology.

The results were very promising. Rats fed Sargassum (450 mg/kg) has similar results as when treated with diazepam (0.18 mg/kg). The Sargassum treatment improved blood glucose, triacylglycerol, total cholesterol, and cortisol levels and liver histology by decreasing the severity of inflammation.

This news couldn’t come at a better time. Sargassum is currently overrunning beaches due to ocean warming and eutrophication. Even better, this study simply used dry powdered Sargassum. There were no costly extraction methods, meaning anyone simply eating Sargassum could potentially benefit.

This work was published in the journal of Preventive Nutrition and Food Science.

How to make your own roasted seaweed snacks.

We love snacking on roasted nori sheets, you know the ones you can buy in stores that are little rectangle sheets with various flavorings. We wanted to see if we could make our own from raw seaweeds. It’s surprisingly easy! You can make sushi roll or roast and season for a snack.

We tried three different kinds of seaweed: nori, dulse, and sea lettuce. Then tried two different drying techniques, oven, and dehydrator.

Results: Nori was the best tasting with a better crispy crunchy mouthfeel. Nori also had the most shrinkage so a slower drying time on low heat works better for keeping it in one single sheet. Sea lettuce made a really good crunchy sheet, but didn’t dissolve very well when eating and felt a little more papery. Dulse also felt a little more papery compared to nori but had a similar taste. We did this experiment in a single shot from known nori recipes. For dulse and sea lettuce we suggest playing around with blanching, drying, cooking times, and temperatures for even better results.

Directions


  1. Blanch the seaweeds in boiling water for about a minute. This helps break down the cell walls making the seaweed more tender. Red and brown seaweeds will turn bright green during this process.

  2. Puree the blanched seaweed. Make sure to cool before sealing to avoid pressure buildup.

  3. Strain seaweed thought fine mesh or coffee filter.

  4. Press seaweed on either silicone mats (for oven) or wax paper (for a dehydrator).

  5. Cover with wax paper and flatten into a thin sheet with a rolling pin

  6. Dry- For a dehydrator dry on low (~95F) for up to 8 hrs. For an oven dry at 260F for 3 hrs. When dry the seaweed will be in a flexible and crunchy sheet.

  7. Mix your favorite oils (we used sesame and olive) and brush on one side of seaweed sheet.

  8. Sprinkle on any salts or seasoning you wish.

  9. Place seaweed sheet on a backing sheet oil side up and broil on low for just a few minutes. If you burn the seaweed it will taste terrible.

  10. Now eat!

 
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Why do cooked seaweeds turn green?

Seaweeds, like any vegetable, can be prepared in a number of ways. They can be eaten raw, fried, baked, boiled, and dried. Each method changes the texture, taste, and in some cases, color.

If you haven’t seen the magic like color change of cooked seaweeds, watch the video below.

Here you see someone blanching kelp, where it turns from brown to bright green in seconds. This happens whenever a brown or red seaweed is heated, but why? As you probably remember from high school biology, plants get their green color from the light harvesting pigment chlorophyll. Seaweeds are no different, red, green, and brown seaweeds contain chlorophyll. However, brown and red seaweeds have additional pigments that give them a different colors; red seaweeds have phycoerythrin while brown seaweeds have fucoxanthin (image below).

It turns out that chlorophyll has a higher melting point (~150 C) than phycoerythrin and fucoxanthin. When Seaweeds are added to boiling water (100 C) the other pigments melt and dissolve leaving behind the bright green chlorophyll. This trick is used for the iconic seaweed salad (wakame). Just as in the video above, wakame starts out brown and is blanched to attain the attractive bright green color.

seaweed pigments.PNG

Artisan salt makers use seaweed in Japan.

In interesting fact, the Japanese government shut down the making of salt from 1905 to 1997. The government decreed salt making to be its sole domain, partly to develop the domestic salt industry and partly to fund the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05.

Fortunately salt makers in Japan are returning to their traditional roots. Moshioyaki, an ancient method dating back to the first half of the Kofun Period (220-552), is thought to be one of the oldest salt-making techniques in Japan. Moshioyaki requires two ingredients, concentrated seawater and hondawara seaweed.

modern versions of moshio salt are made by boiling down concentrated seawater in steel vats with a large muslin bag full of sun-dried hondawara seaweed to extract varying salt grades. First seawater is pumped up into a vat to settle for a few days, then the water is pumped out leaving the large particles at the bottom. Then the water is “showered” for 1-2 weeks to remove calcium. During this process water trickles down fine mesh synthetic nets onto corrugated plastic gutters. As the water is cycled back into the shower system, calcium deposits to the gutters. The now concentrated water is heated and as the water evaporates, the resulting wet salt is placed into muslin bags and left it to dry out naturally.

moshio salt has been gaining popularity in restaurants throughout Japan and serves as an excellent example of how seaweeds can transform something so simple into something richer.

Animals fed an algae rich diet produced more nutritious milk.

You truly are what you eat, or what your food eats. A recent study in the Journal of Animal Feed Science wanted to see if feeding goats algae would affect their milk production or quality. In the study, the researchers used the marine microalga Schizochytrium limacinum because of it’s known high fatty acid content of DHA.

Forty dairy goats were tested with varying diets for 31 days, and some groups were supplemented with the algae. The researchers concluded the algae feeding had no negative effect on milk yield and milk composition. However, the microalgae inclusion considerably increased DHA concentration in milk. Additionally, the n-6/n-3 ratio was also more favorable in the microalgae supplemented groups. The 6:3 ratio was reduced from 2.3 to 1.25 indicating higher levels of omega-3’s.

While this study used microalgae, there is considerable research currently on feeding cattle seaweeds for methane reduction. An interesting additional benefit may be more nutritious milk as seaweeds are also rich in omega-3’s.

Dulse vs. nori butter

We recently had a chance to try out some seaweed butter recipes.

Typically seaweed butter recipes call for dried nori, which is expected due to the availability of dried nori in most grocery stores. We wanted to try using fresh seaweeds, nori and dulse. After nori and dulse butters were made, we used them on a variety of simple dishes to compare flavors.

Directions to make seaweed butter using fresh seaweeds.

  1. Grab a large handful of fresh nori or dulse (~2-3 oz).

  2. Add seaweed to a food processor with a little water and puree.

  3. Strain pureed seaweed through a coffee filter to remove excess water.

  4. Heat a skillet to medium-low and melt a half stick of non-salted butter (4 Tbs).

  5. Mix in strained pureed seaweed.

  6. Transfer mixture to a dish, cover, and refrigerate.

    The seaweed butter can stay in refrigerator for up to two weeks and can now be used at any time in place of regular butter.


Now for the fun part. We used the nori and dulse butter on a a few simple dishes to assess the flavor enhancement and differences. We tried both butters on fried eggs, sauteed zucchini, sauteed mushrooms, bread, mixed veggies, and asparagus.

Dulse Butter: Dulse kept its red color when used to saute vegetables. It gave a much more umami meaty flavor to dishes compared to nori. This is to be expected as dulse contains more glutamic acid which is responsible for umami flavor. Dishes that used dulse had little to no ocean flavor. Dulse butter would be good for any dish where a more savory flavor is wanted.

Nori Butter: Nori butter became dark green when sauteed. Dishes cooked with nori had more ocean flavor than dulse, likely because nori has a higher concentration of lipids. Longer chain fatty acids, like fish oils, give a stronger ocean flavor and are good for human health. Nori butter would better complement seafood dishes like crab, oysters, and fish.

Overall the seaweed butters were well received, even by people that don’t particularity enjoy seafood. The crowd favorite was umami mushrooms, white mushrooms sauteed in dulse butter. These were very simple dishes so the differences in the butters could be detected, that being said, adding new elements such as garlic and lemon would be great things to try.


Dulse

Dulse

Pureed nori in melted butter

Pureed nori in melted butter

Umami mushrooms sauteed in dulse butter

Umami mushrooms sauteed in dulse butter

 
Nori butter in dish

Nori butter in dish

Sauteed zuchini with dulse butter.

Sauteed zuchini with dulse butter.

 

Kampachi Farms LLC sets out to attain off shore permits for offshore seaweed

Kampachi Farms LLC, a company in Hawaii that primarily farms king kampachi is now setting out to farm seaweeds. The company is working to attain the permits for a site more than a mile off Kaiwi Point near Kailua on Hawaii Island. The farm would be about 4,300 square feet and 10 meters below the water’s surface. The farm would produce four endemic species, limu manuea or ogo (Gracilaria parvispora), limu kohu (Asparagopsis taxiformis), limu kala (Sargassum echinocarpum) and sea grapes (Caulerpa lentillifera).

Limu is used as an ingredient in poke, a traditional Hawaiian dish of raw fish. The company aims to produce limu in quantities large enough for animal feed and biofuel applications.

A great way to clean oceans and feed people.

Read more here

Seaweeds are one of the best things to eat to help preserve biodiversity and the planet

Last month, the United Nations released a report on biodiversity and ecosystems that found 1 million plant and animal species are currently facing extinction.

The World Wildlife Fund argues dietary monotony leads to a decline in biodiversity since many animals can’t thrive on land that has been transformed to farmlands. Did you know that 75% of the global food supply comes from just 12 plant and five animal species?

In response to this issue, the WWF published “Future 50 Foods,” a list of “foods we should eat more of because they are nutritious, have a lower impact on our planet than animal-based foods, can be affordable, accessible, and taste good.”

On this list there are two seaweed recommendations, wakame, and nori. While the authors clearly selected these on market availability, the same arguments can be made for a variety of seaweeds available by seaweed farms and local foragers.

Variety is the spice of life, but now it seems like it also might be what saves species diversity.

seaweeds to combat hypertension

On Tuesday the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) came out with a nutraceutical product, developed from seaweeds, to combat hypertension (high blood pressure).

CadalminTM AHe was developed from seaweeds, commonly available in the Indian coastal waters.

Kajal Chakraborty, the Senior Scientist at the CMFRI who developed the product said, "The extract contains 100 per cent natural marine bioactive ingredients from selected seaweeds by a patented technology, and would be made available in 400 mg capsules. This nutraceutical does not have any side effects as established by detailed preclinical trials. The institute is in the process of developing more health products from the underutilized seaweeds. Efforts are on for standardizing and promoting seaweed farming all along the Indian coasts as a livelihood option for the coastal communities. This is expected to compensate for the dip in income for the fishermen during lean seasons."

Seaweeds have been shown in other studies to reduce hypertension, just as other health foods such as fruits and vegetables. However, the researchers at CMFRI have focused on an underutilized resource that could also have strong positive economic impacts.

CHALLENGES FOR SUSTAINABLE SEAWEED AQUACULTURE DEVELOPMENT IN EUROPE

A recent report by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) titled Phycomorph European Guidelines for a Sustainable Aquaculture of Seaweeds (PEGASUS), highlights the current state of European seaweed production and pinpoints challenges for the development of this sector in the current European context. It proposes recommendations for short-term and long-term improvements at different levels of the chain.

Although this report is Eurocentric, there are many parallels with the US seaweed industry in terms of regulations, market demand, and current percent production of global production.

The authors believe that seaweed aquaculture can help to address global challenges related to nutrition, health and sustainable circular bio economy. The estimated value of the global seaweed production industry is more than ~ 8B€ (for 30Mt) and is continuing to expand. However, the European production lags behind Asian countries despite its large economy. In response, a multi-nation team of European scientists produced a 200 page report outlining how to promote seaweed aquaculture.

Here is a list of some of the highlighted hurdles and recommendations for building a stronger seaweed economy (image below).

  • Challenge: Food preservation to maintain consistent contents and improve organoleptic properties

    • Solution: Set up certification centers

  • Challenge: Impacts of post-harvest handling (preservation treatments) on the quality and quality stability of seaweed (nutrient content, organoleptic properties). Stabilization of seaweed biomass

    • Solution: Implement best practice / industrial classification codes developed in collaboration with companies and national / European authorities

  • Challenge: Attract consumers

    • Solution: Increase public awareness, create vocabulary to describe the flavor of seaweed

improve aquaculture graphic.PNG

Fucoidan used in diet therapy for the prevention and treatment of diabetes mellitus

A new article just published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, reviewed the primary research surrounding fucoidan and its health benefits. Fucoidan is a complex polysaccharide found in many species of brown seaweed. It is said to be an antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor. The researchers admit, “such a wide range of biological effects of fucoidan causes mistrust, therefore legitimate to ask a myth or reality.” The study focused on the antidiabetic properties of fucoidan, by reviewing preclinical studies on invitro models (on separate cell systems) and in vivo (on various laboratory animals) and the first phase of clinical trials—tolerability and safety as well as pilot studies were conducted on the second phase of clinical trials.

The review concluded that sulfated polysaccharide fucoidan promotes maintaining homeostasis of glucose due to the decrease rate of its absorption in the gut and increase in utilization of muscle fibers, which leads to the prevention of the development of glycaemia and lipedema. The positive effect fucoidan at diabetes mellitus linked to its antioxidant properties and ability to reduce manifestations of apoptosis, in particular, beta cells of pancreas, which save the ability of cells to secrete insulin. And therefore, fucoidan should be clacified as a functional food for diet therapy for the prevention and treatment of diabetes mellitus.

Fucoidan is currently available on the market as a supplement, or you could consume it as people in Japan and Korea have for centuries, by eating brown seaweeds.

TNC and Encourage Capital report on blue revolution investment

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has changed their tune on aquaculture as of late. Realizing that aquaculture will be needed in attaining food security with an ever growing population, they have shifted their focus on sustainable aquaculture and the blue revolution.

The report titled “Towards a Blue Revolution: Catalyzing Private Investment in Sustainable Aquaculture Production Systems“ goes into great detail to summarize aquaculture markets along with their investment and economic risks and rewards. The authors claimed, “If we can shift production toward the most sustainable forms of aquaculture production, we can not only foster healthier marine ecosystems, but also a stronger global food system. “

When it comes to seaweed

The report says with seaweed aquaculture the risks are low and so is the capital needed, however, the financial gains are high with scaling (Figure below).

  • Core Seaweed Investment Thesis

    • Already profitable at smaller project sizes with significant financial upside to scaling

    • Proven production methods with many skilled operators and potential expansion to new species and regions

    • Large and diverse market opportunity for both globally

  • Seaweed Impact Thesis (Environmental)

    • Represent the clearest environmental value proposition given they: (a) possess the lowest input requirements of any aquaculture production model, and (b) can provide ecological benefits to surrounding ecosystems in the form of water filtration, nitrogen removal, and habitat provision.

risk and capital.PNG

The race to the methane-free cash cow

Methane is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide, and livestock accounts for about 14.5% of climate-warming emissions worldwide, according to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. For the past decade, researchers have been investigating the causes and remedies of methane produced by cattle. Between 2016 and 2018 the topic heated to a boil with the discovery that adding seaweed to cattle feed reduced methane burps, especially the red macroalga, Asparagopsis taxiformis.

The race is on!

Scientists all over the world are now intensively working on how to maximize the economic and environmental effectiveness. Researchers are pointing to the bromoform produced by Asparaopsis as the key compound that blocks the production of methane in cows, sheep, goats and other ruminant animals. By changing growing conditions, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, the bromoform concentration can be more than doubled.

Experts are currently debating in which stage to grow the seaweed. The practical considerations include not only the cost of cultivation but its carbon footprint. If growing the seaweed and shipping it to farms generates considerable amounts of greenhouse gas, the process could cancel out the benefits of reducing methane.

Growing Asparagopsis would likely require doing so in tanks of sterilized seawater to prevent contamination of the clingy plant material. That means using some form of energy to pump in air and nitrogen. The problem is it's going to be expensive. The ultimate goal is the most scalable and lowest cost method of production, and to achieve this some point to offshore farming rather than in tanks on land.

There is still some uncertainty with respect to the cattle as well. Will seaweeds reduce methane indefinitely, are there any negative effects to the animals, and will the cows voluntarily eat seaweed infused feed? To address these questions, Ermias Kebreab, an animal science professor at UC Davis, is currently conducting a 6 month feeding trial with cattle.

Many of the outstanding questions will be answered soon enough. Whether motivated by profits or global warming, the race is on to patent recipes for growing, scaling, and processing seaweed for animal feed.

seaweed pasta sauce

Chef Patrick Ho from Fortuna Hotel Hanoi shares his signature dish, seaweed pasta with scallops. What makes this dish so different is that it uses seaweed sauce instead of simply adding seaweed flakes or noodles. More and more chefs have been creating seaweed butter and sauces. The best part is, these kinds of butter and sauces are incredibly easy to make and a great way to get seaweed into your diet to reap all those health benefits.




To make seaweed sauce:

- Put the seaweed into the pot at a medium heat

- When the seaweed is becoming soggy, reduce to lower heat and add water until it boils.

- Add a little salt to taste.

To make the seaweed dish:

- Cook the pasta for 3-4 minutes in boiling water.

- Cut white radish and Seaweed Nori into small pieces.

- Fry the scallops in the oil until they are just golden brown.

- Sauté the pasta and scallops and then add the seaweed sauce.


Read full article here from vietnam news

Seaweed cookies

Kate Hamm is the pastry chef for Bao Bao and Lio resturants in Portland, Maine. She recently revealed her recipe for seaweed cookies. These aren’t your traditional sweet cookies, these are soft and savory sablé cookies (sablé is French for sandy). Once the cookie is made it can be topped by a number of items, in this case, caviar.

Ingredients

1/3 cup cake flour

2/3 cup all purpose flour

3 tbls. powdered sugar

1 stick butter

2 tbls. dried and ground seaweed (preferably dulse, wakame, nori, kombu)

Directions

Pulse flours, sugar, and powdered seaweed in food processor until well mixed. Add butter and pulse until you have a dough. Roll into a log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 -8 hours (the longer the better).

Once the log of dough is solid, slice into coins about 1/8" thick. Brush with water and top with a flake or two of sea salt. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes (edges should be gold).

Once cool, top with creme fraiche, caviar or trout roe, and minced preserved lemon, or other toppings of your choice.  :)

Watch the demo below

What will Mexico do with all that sargassum?

Due to climate change and nutrification of coastal environments, algal blooms are becoming more frequent and exaggerated. Algal blooms are typically in reference to microalgae, however, there can be blooms of macroalgae as well. For example, right now over 100 million tons of Sargassum are headed to the Mexican shores. For many coastal industries, this is a big problem, harbors become blocked and resort beaches become deserted. That’s why President López Obrador is bringing out the big guns, the Mexican Navy. The help is coming after an outcry of resorts failing to keep the beaches clear. The Cancún-Puerto Morelos hotels association has estimated that cleaning the beaches of sargassum will cost at least 700 million pesos (US $36.7 million) this year.

It’s unclear what the Navy has planned for 100 million tons of seaweed, our guess is to throw it all in a landfill. One thing is clear, any entrepreneurs that figure out how to make that seaweed into a revenue stream will become extremely wealthy. Hotel chains are already willing to pay millions for someone to take it away. There is opportunity for production of, fertilizers, nutraceuticals, protein, or cosmetics.

Read an article about the Mexican navy involvement here

The man who discovered umami

Did you know we owe seaweed for helping discover umami?

Kikunae Ikeda a Japanese chemist and professor at Tokyo Imperial University had been studying a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes called dashi. Through numerous chemical assays, Ikeda had been trying to isolate the molecules behind its distinctive taste. In a 1909 paper, Ikeda claimed the flavor in question came from the amino acid glutamate, a building block of proteins. He suggested that the savory sensation triggered by glutamate should be one of the basic tastes that give something flavor, on a par with sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. He called it “umami”, riffing on a Japanese word meaning “delicious”.

Ikeda’s paper was not well received, and it took over a hundred years for the term “umami” to be internationally recognized. Over the decades, scientists began to put together how umami works. Each new insight brought the claim put forth by Ikeda into better focus. The discovery that made umami stick was about 20 years ago, showing that there are specific receptors in taste buds that pick up on amino acids. Multiple research groups have now reported on these receptors, which are tuned to specifically stick onto glutamate.

Ikeda, found a seasoning manufacturer and started to produce his own line of umami seasoning. The product, a monosodium glutamate (MSG) powder called Aji-No-Moto, is still made today. (Although rumors have swirled periodically that eating too much MSG can give people headaches and other health problems, the US Food and Drug Administration has found no evidence for such claims. It just makes food taste more savory.)     

While other food items have umami flavors, it was seaweed that gave the term life.

why seaweed hasn't replaced kale yet

A very interesting article in WHYY marketplace called “Is kelp the new kale? It was supposed to be” hits at an interesting point. A few years ago seaweed was being called the next superfood, and bold claims like, “seaweed would become the new kale” were commonplace. But that hasn’t happened yet, why?

Anoushka Concepcion is an assistant extension educator with the Connecticut Sea Grant. She works with seafood producers and researchers and answers questions about the latest technology and trends. In an interview Anoushka said “The idea sort of took off before all the practical challenges can be addressed,” Concepcion said. “Farmers are finding it difficult now just to get rid of their seaweed. They can’t get rid of it.”

Bren Smith, co-founder of GreenWave, says the seaweed business is past the startup phase and now needs to build infrastructure and grow market demand by changing people’s tastes on a larger scale.

We all know it’s good for us, now we just need to start eating it.