News

Cargill works to help make larger sustainable red seaweed market.

Cargill is a company that distributes grain, oil, and other agriculture commodities. Recently Cargill announced that it would be addressing key sustainability challenges for cultivation and harvest of red seaweed through a new program called the Red Seaweed Promise.

Cargill purchases red seaweed primarily for carrageenan, however, some challenges, from climate change and extreme weather events to inefficient farming and harvesting practices, have a significant impact on the quality of red seaweed.

The plan is to enhance producer livelihoods and conserve the marine environment, while maintaining a commitment to source 60% sustainable red seaweed by 2025.

Sebastien Jan, Cargill seaweed strategic sourcing project manager, said: “Red seaweed production is critical to the prosperity of approximately 1 million producers and their communities.

“Today, these producers face multiple challenges, from climate change and extreme weather events to inefficient farming and harvesting practices, which have a significant impact on the quality of red seaweed.

“The Red Seaweed Promise supports producers’ prosperity by providing the training, coaching and tools producers need to adopt environmental and safe production best practices, while committing to sustainable marine and coastal ecosystems.” 

Read the full article here

Happy seaweed day!

Today, February 6th, is national seaweed day (海苔の日 ) in Japan!

In 1966 the National Lionfish and Shellfishes Cooperative Federation Association declared February 6 the day of seaweed. This date was chosen as it marks the beginning of the nori season (early spring).

So go out and grab some of your favorite seaweed snacks to celebrate!

New report outlines seaweed market growth and hindrances.

A recent report by Transparency Market Research reviewed the current economic status of commercial seaweed. The report highlighted the market value, projected growth, and cited the causes and obstacles to growth.

Value and Demands: The current value of the seaweed market is valued at US$10,573 Mn (2016). the projected market value is estimated at US$26,107 Mn by year 2025. The cited reason for such growth is due to rise in awareness about the medical advantages of seaweed on a daily basis. Seaweed being rich in nutrients and minerals has become an attractive food source. Inferred from it’s chemical composition, the interest for seaweed has been surprisingly high in parts, for example, pharmaceutical, individual consideration, nourishment, and beautifying agents. The demand for seaweed has also been high in the designing of animal feeds.

Obstacles: The report highlights some of the obstacles that hamper market growth. The main obstacle is the high price of seaweed. When seaweeds are compared to other commercially gown agriculture, the price for seaweed is substantially higher. Another issue is rising levels of water contamination. As the consumer becomes more aware of health benefits, they also become more aware of traceability and source pollution.

Research and development of scalable infrastructure will likely overcome these challenges in the near future.

The report can be previewed here

From the makers of the seaweed surfboard, comes Triton flip-flops: sandals made from algae!

Flip-flops are the number one shoe in the world, and many are made from polymers that don’t break down, causing more pollution in our landfills and oceans.

Triton flip-flops are made from algae and are completely compostable. These alternative materials can help companies and consumers wane off disposable plastics.

Algae derived materials are growing in form and function and we expect that trend to continue.

Watch the video below about this new amazing product.

Shrimp farming is getting a boost from incorporating seaweeds

Aquaculture is beginning to shift from mono-culture to integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA). While IMTA is still relativity a new idea in the industry, nature has been doing it all along and new studies keep illustrating the benefits.

A study just came out this month (Jan 2019) that looked into adding seaweed to shrimp farms. The study added three seaweeds: Gracilaria vermiculophylla, Ulva lactuca,  and Dictyota dichotoma to ponds growing white legged shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei. Then shrimp were infected with V. parahaemolyticus and WSSV to assess disease resistance and response.

The use of macroalgae in co-culture with L. vannamei provided a nutritional benefit that achieved higher growth than the control organisms, as well as improvements of the ammonium concentration and immune response after infection with V. parahaemolyticus and WSSV.

The study concluded that these additional benefits were diet related, however, live seaweeds would change the water properties and testing water quality would be an interesting next step.

This is a good example how a company could change from one product to two while enhancing yield and quality of the original product with very little additional cost.

This research was published in the Journal of Fish & Shellfish Immunology

How ocean acidification could restructure natural seaweed communities

Sean Connell, of the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide, recently conducted a study on the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on seaweed communities.

The study was completed in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty where volcanic vents raise CO2 and increase the water acidity. What the researchers found was that kelp domination was replaced by fast growing turf species. Not only did the volcanic vents increase the growth of turf species, but also inhibited the production of a primary grazer (urchins). These coupled effects allowed turf species to become the dominant in simulated future ocean conditions.

The upper graph showing the control plot where kelp becomes the dominant. The lower graph shows plots with elevated CO2 that become turf dominated.

The upper graph showing the control plot where kelp becomes the dominant. The lower graph shows plots with elevated CO2 that become turf dominated.

Predictive studies are full of ambiguity, and fail to address longer term trends such as geographical shifts and adaptions, however, knowing these case studies allows us to be mindful of what we might expect along our own coast.

This study was published in Ecology and can be viewed here

Sodium alginate and human stem cells used to 3D-print tissues

Researchers at Penn State University found sodium alginate from seaweed can be used to “print” human tissues. Alginate mixed with human stem cells can be 3D-printed into tiny particles that create breathable tissues.

Currently the technology is limited to small strands, however, the researchers are confidant they will be able to create larger tissue patches in the future. The researchers believe these tissues could be used for bone and cartilage surgery , such as knee restoration, cartilage defects, and osteoarthritis.

Read the article here

U.S. seaweed consumption is growing about 7% a year

James E. Griffin, an associate professor at Johnson & Wales University , claims that the U.S. consumption of seaweeds is growing approximately 7% annually. Griffin made this claim at the NRA (National Restaurant Association) show in May 2018. He also stated that the fine-dinning sector is leading the charge, while the U.S. consumer still lags considerably behind Asia and Europe in consumption.

As with other sea food, most of the seaweed in the U.S. is imported from Asia, about 90% said Griffin. This means that the U.S. has a growing market with little local production. Griffin also pointed out that the seaweed source matters, as they can take up heavy metals from the surrounding water. The U.S. has higher restrictions and oversight on water pollution than most countries, and could be well positioned to pivot to producing rather than importing.

Read the article from Nation’s Restaurant News

Carrageenan and silver to combat drug resistant bacteria

Carrageenan is a sugar within some red seaweeds that gets a lot of attention in relation to human health and food additives. We covered this topic thoroughly here.

Lately carrageenan has been making headlines as a sustained release matrix for health applications. Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (IIT-Roorkee), found that they could stabilize and extend the short shelf life of silver nanoparticles by adding a carrageenan matrix. The nano composite was able to kill both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, and had a shelf life of 6 months. The researchers believe this technology will be useful for wound dressing, food packing, and plan to investigate the possibilities as an anti-fungal and anti-viral agent as well.

The published research can be found here

Read more about the project from the Tech Explorist here

Food & Wine predicts seaweed to be one of the biggest food trends of 2019!

An article from Wood & Wine, listed their top 11 predictions for 2019. Each listed item was foretasted by a renowned chef. The predictions include everything from restaurant style, phone usage, and food.

Number 6 on the list is KELP! Marc Murphy, executive chef and owner of Benchmarc Restaurants, cookbook author, and Chopped judge, predicts you will start seeing more and more seaweed on menus. Murphy mentions, it’s a good sustainable option for diners and oceans.

If you are interested in the other predictions from 2019, read the full article here

Farm bill passes that dramatically expands federal support for algae agriculture!

Today a landmark farm bill has been approved by the U.S senate. The bill places algal farming as a top concern for the country and gives algal farmers some of the privileges that traditional farmers have always had.

  • Crop Insurance– Algae are explicitly added under the definition of “agricultural commodity” for the purposes of federal crop insurance programs, paving the way for federal crop insurance for algae production

  • Algae Agriculture Research Program– Establishes a new USDA Algae Agriculture Research Program to address challenges in farm-scale algae production and support development of algae-based agriculture solutions

  • Biomass Crop Assistance Program– Provides for the first time full eligibility to algae under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. BCAP provides financial support to farmers for establishment, production and delivery of new biomass crops

  • Biobased Markets Program (BioPreferred)– Directs USDA to establish methodology providing full credit for biobased content for products from biologically recycled carbon. Current USDA methodology excludes biobased products from recycled carbon.

  • Biorefinery Assistance (9003 Loan Guarantee) Program – Expands the section 9003 loan guarantee program to allow algae-based and other biorefinery projects for the manufacture of renewable chemicals and biobased products to qualify regardless of whether biofuels will be produced

  • Carbon Capture and Use – Adds several provisions expanding CCU research, education and outreach at the Department of Agriculture

This is a big win for algae and the USA!

The bill is to cross president trumps desk for a final signature before Christmas.

You can read the entire 800 page bill here

Climate change is raising iodine levels in seaweed. Cause for alarm? We think not.

A recent publication in Global Change Biology, reported that changing atmospheric and oceanic conditions, due to climate change, are raising the levels of iodine in seaweeds that can transfer up the food web. We think this is a great paper, and we strongly believe that many aspects of the ocean should be analysed to model future ocean conditions. Most work on algae in respects to climate change have been limited to calcifying reds, and the coral symbiot zooxanthellae. Seaweeds are the second largest biomass harvested from the oceans and more research is needed for that market.

A few news articles ran with the idea that seaweeds are becoming toxic, and are making headlines. While humans need iodine, too much can cause some of the same symptoms as iodine deficiency, including goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland) (NIH). However, we suggest caution when saying all seaweeds will become toxic.

For instance in the paper the study species Saccharina japonica was used, which is a species that is known to already have high concentrations of iodine. Saccharina and other species of brown seaweeds (kelp/ kombu) have much higher concentrations of iodine than other species (see figure below). Most consumed seaweeds (dulse, nori, wakame) have iodine levels 5x lower than Saccharina, and even with increases from climate change would not be considered dangerous.

People around the world choose to eat seaweeds because it’s rich in minerals including iodine, and we suspect this fact will not change. We encourage people to pay attention to the nutrition labeling on seaweed foods and monitor how much they consume. When reading papers or nutrition labels, note the seaweed condition (Dry vs. fresh). Most weight in seaweeds is attributed to water, and a serving size between dry and fresh can be a large difference. We also want to emphasize that iodine is not accumulated in your tissues, such as heavy metals.

We hope good studies like this continue, but use caution when reading news that oversimplifies the results.

Image from American Thyroid Association 2004.  Full article here

Image from American Thyroid Association 2004. Full article here

Kampachi farms was awarded a $3.3 million grant to study seaweed as a source of energy and food

Kampachi farms was awarded a $3.3 million grant from the US Department of Energy (DoE) to study seaweed as a source of energy and food.

Kampachi farms is best known for growing King Kampachi (Seriola rivoliana). Now the Kampachi Company's Kyphosid Ruminant Microbial Bioconversion of Seaweeds (KRuMBS) project aims to culture seaweed for feed, fuel, and food.

Read more here from Undercurrent news.

Seaweed extracts used to make clothing

This is just too cool! We have reported before how seaweed extracts can be used for various plastic materials, but now the ADAY company has a new clothing line: the planet bae collection. The collection has various clothing items that are made from seaweed extracts. We looked into them a little and found out that their shirts are around 25% seaweed!

This is really exciting news for a number of reasons. The first being that this is the first reusable item made from seaweed that we have seen hit the markets. The focus thus far has been on replacing single use plastics. The second reason for excitement is the clothing industry is known to be extremely harmful to the environment, which has created an outcry for more sustainable clothing products.

Seaweeds can facilitate symbiotic microbes in agriculture

Modern agriculture is a marvel of the 21st century. Crop production has surpassed our expectations, many times over, in the last 100 years. However, this production has come with a cost. What is now being called our nitrogen addiction, refers to the amount of fertilizers used on farmland. The traditional soaking of soil is inefficient and leads to runoff: where nutrients are leaked into other surrounding ecosystems or the waterways.

Doesn’t sound so bad, what the problem with extra nutrients in the water? Well, the added nutrients cause boom bust cycles of other plants and algae that can tip the balance of an ecosystem. Currently there are numerous microalgae blooms off the coast of the USA, all are said to be a factor of agriculture runoff. This has caused an outcry for more responsible farming practices in reducing their nutrient loading.

One group in the UK has started using algae extracts and microbes to help crop efficiency. They claim that the seaweed extract facilitates microbes that help crops take up more water and nutrients, and therefore can reduce the amount of farm input by 20%. By reducing the amount of water and fertilizer used, the runoff will be far less than without the seaweed’s help. This could end up being a key strategy for responsible farming practices.

How do farmers get giant pumpkins? With a little help from seaweed.

Tomorrow is Halloween! Tradition dictates that you go to the pumpkin patch, select the pumpkin that calls to you, and carve it into a jack o'lantern. Every now and then, you will come across a giant pumpkin. You know the ones that we mean, they look like a half inflated beach ball that requires a forklift to move. The largest giant pumpkin ever recorded in the USA weighed an impressive 2,528 pounds.

How do they get so big? A farmer in Wisconsin shares his secret. At their farm they use seaweed. They claim that seaweed has extra minerals and nutrients that the pumpkin needs to grow fast.

Read more here

Moss Landing Marine Labs gets funding to study macroalgae in livestock feed

As previously discussed on this blog back on October 22nd, we mentioned researchers at UC Davis discovered that methane from cows can be dramatically reduced by including some red algae in their diets.

It was just announced Friday (Oct. 26th, 2018) that Moss Landing Marine Labs was awarded Seagrant funding to investigate and culture other methane reducing alga species. This funding was a part of the $6 million invested in ocean research projects by the Ocean Protection Council.

Dr. Graham of Monterey Bay Seaweeds will be joining the research team and sharing his expertise on land based algal culturing.