News

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.

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

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

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.

Seaweed sport drink pouches used at the London Marathon

A London-based start-up called Skipping Rocks Lab has created edible and biodegradable pouches, called Ooho, that dissolve in about a month when discarded. The cool part is, they are made from seaweed, a sustainable resource.

Oohos were used recently at the London Marathon. The golf ball sized pouches were filled with a sports drink. Runners merely had to bite into the pouch or place the entire pod inside their mouth and start chewing to access the once of liquid. The event organizers wanted to cut down on the one-time use plastics typically associated with these events, and the company got a chance to show how their application can be scaled for mass production in the future.

Just another way that seaweed is changing how people do business.

Read an article from the Washington Post

Operation Crayweed: restoring Sydney's underwater forests.

Sydney Australia used to have a rich coastline teeming with life, and crayweed (Phyllospora comosa) stretched far and wide. Crayweed is a brown macroalga that forms dense bushy habitat for a variety of marine life. Sometime back in the 80s, crayweed largely disappeared, and much of the inhabitants with it. While the cause of the crayweed reduction was unclear, many point to prolonged poor water quality.

The water quality in Sydney has improved, but the crayweed didn’t bounce back as expected. Thus enters Operation Crayweed, an effort to restore the natural population of crayweed around Sydney. The group settles crayweed onto mats, then divers deploy and secure the mats so the crayweed can naturally spread.

Below is a wonderful video outlining the effort. What a good way to rebuild an ecosystem, from the bottom up! Read more about Operation Crayweed at http://www.operationcrayweed.com/

Flexible Conductors from Brown Algae for Green Electronics

Researchers recently published about novel conductors in Advanced Sustainable Systems. What makes these conductors so novel is they are made from brown algae or kelps.

Alginate from brown seaweeds are are used to make a flexible sodium alginate film. Ultrathin gold layers are then added to the alginate film. The resulting foils are thin, easy to handle, and shape, while showing good conductive properties.

The researchers believe this novel use of sodium alginate conductors is a “very promising candidate to be employed in green electronics, thanks to the reduced energy consumption required for their fabrication, the absence of toxic components or chemicals that are derived from oil, and the possibility to disassemble the devices at the end of their life in environmentally friendly conditions.”

The research can be viewed here

"I want kelp on every table in America"

Sarah Redmond, founder of Springtide Seaweed, has a clear vision for the future of seaweed cultivation. Springtide is perusing an additional 20 acre site to accompany their 35 acre site off Stave Island Maine. Redmond claims there is plenty of room for growth when it comes to seaweed cultivation and that it can be done sustainably without competing with other marine activities.

Springtide Seaweed’s products are powders that can be used as culinary seasonings and salt substitutes. Redmond said, “I want kelp on every table in America,” she said. “It is nature’s true healthy salt.”

Read the full article here from BDN Hancock

Kelp farming is therapeutic, introducing the Salt Sisters group

Today we discovered the Salt Sisters, a campaign to help women in recovery connect with themselves and their inner strength through a connection with nature.

Founded by Colleen Francke, the Salt Sisters use kelp farming as a way to recovery and support.

“This project isn’t just about growing kelp, helping the environment, or diversifying out of a troubled industry,” says Francke. “I want to show others, and largely women like myself, who may think that they have nothing or no way out of where they are, that in fact they have every opportunity in the world.”

We can’t support this enough! We salute you, Salt Sisters! Keep up the good work.

Read the full article here from National Fisherman

New report: "Development of Offshore Seaweed Cultivation: food safety, cultivation, ecology and economy"

Offshore of northern Europe, a seaweed farm known as NSF (North Sea Farm). NSF was established in 2014 and is committed to developing a strong and healthy seaweed supply chain, in and from the Netherlands. This farm has been studied in a number of ways to assess ecological and economical impacts.

A recent report was just released evaluating economics, food safety, and ecological impacts of offshore seaweed farming.

Studies like these are extremely valuable to validate ecosystem services provided by seaweed farming, and should be conducted in numerous locations around the USA to be ecosystem specific.

General conclusions from the report below

  • high variability in chemical and contaminant composition of kelps, with only one month between sampling moments, was observed. This demonstrates the potential to harvest at the right moment, to provide the processing industry with desired products. However, it simultaneously shows the challenge to provide products with stable biochemical composition.

  • economic analysis indicates that relatively low-value markets such as the alginates are within reach for seaweed production in the North Sea, though for the near future a mix of medium- and low-value markets needs to be targeted

  • seaweed cultivation can have significant effect on the surrounding ecosystem, including biodiversity enhancement. But site specific information is required for the North Sea to evaluate how this activity relates to for example requirements by marine framework directives, and if farm management can further stimulate the ecosystem services provided by seaweed cultivation (through timing of harvest and/or technical adaptations to become more nature inclusive).

North America's first-ever seaweed-focused restaurant week

Most people know seaweed is a sustainable, nutritious, and versatile food source, but the majority of the public doesn’t know what to do with it in the kitchen.

Josh Rogers, owner of Heritage Seaweed in Portland ME, was well aware of this disconnect and conceived the idea of Seaweed Week as a way to bring the public’s attention to seaweed.

Seaweed Week, is being organized for April 26 through May 4 in Portland to spotlight businesses across greater Portland that champion sea vegetables and challenge others to start innovating with them. It will feature sea greens on menus at eateries, bars, breweries and distilleries.

Visit www.seaweedweek.org for more information.

Seaweed Beers are Gaining in Popularity

Beers made with seaweed are becoming increasing popular.

Great Lakes Brewing just announced their Irish stout with dulse for saint patrick's day. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Australia, Brisbane’s Newstead Brewing Co . just announced their new seaweed beer “Moreton Bae” which contains Ulva (sea lettuce).

It’s unclear if these seaweeds are simply flavoring, or if the sugars from seaweed are being used in the fermentation process.

Either way, it’s a clever use of a sustainable recourse that could tap into a very large market. The Brewers Association reported: retail dollar sales of craft beers increased 8%, up to $26.0 billion, and now account for more than 23% of the $111.4 billion U.S. beer market.

NOVAMEAT has Created Artificial Steak using Plants and Algae

NOVAMEAT is a company located in Barcelona, Spain that has found a way to make vegan steaks. The steaks are plant-based and also incorporate algae. The most unique part of their product is they found a way to make the meaty texture by using a 3D printing system (video below).

We reached out to NOVOMEAT and asked what kind of algae is used in their product. While they are still in R&D stage, the most they would say is that sometimes they use macro-algae and other times they use micro-algae depending on the different prototypes and textures needed.

Can’t wait to try these!

Here is a recent article about NOVOMEAT

The Nature Conservancy is Changing its Tune to Seaweed Aquaculture

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the worlds largest conservation NGOs, is changing how it sees aquaculture. For many years the organization has sounded alarms about the dangerous impacts of aquaculture to the environment, but recently has been involved in a number of aquaculture partnerships.

TNC has realized the important role of ecosystem services that some aquaculture can provide, specifically seaweed and shellfish. For example, they found that changing from fishing to seaweed farming, not only takes carbon and nitrogen out of the water, but also promoted more fish and lobsters in the surrounding water. TNC has released a promotional video of a seaweed farming success story (posted below).

“This is kind of a paradigm shift in how we’re trying to understand aquaculture, at least in the conservation world,” said Robert Jones, global lead for aquaculture at TNC. “We’re trying to turn this on its head.”

This is a big step in moving the conversation from aquaculture being dangerous to aquaculture being environmentally friendly.

Read a detailed article here from the Global Aquaculture Advocate

Read an article here from TNC “Sustainable Aquaculture: A viable economic alternative to fishing”

100 year old maps help create historic digital kelp distribution

There are concerns that the global distribution of kelp is dwindling due to climate change, pollution, or over grazing. However, incomplete records of kelp distribution and density make it hard to evaluate the actual kelp loss.

University of Victoria geography Prof. Maycira Costa was introduced to a collection of historical British nautical charts. Dr. Costa quickly realized that kelp distribution was noted on some of these charts.

Using those British admiralty charts from 1858 to 1956, Costa and her research team have now created the first historical digital map of B.C.'s coastal kelp forests. Now they will be able to compare the historical maps with the satellite images from 2002 until 2017 to better understand how much kelp has been lost.

Read the full article here

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