A research establishment in Scotland has won funding for a project to help develop seaweed as a commercial crop.
The Seaweed Academy, which will be based at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) near Oban, will be the UK’s first dedicated seaweed industry facility, offering advice to start-ups, training workers and sharing the latest research to help businesses develop.
The grant of £407,000 comes from the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund. It is one of 56 projects across Scotland sharing an £18m investment, to help people into work and deliver “net zero” in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
The aim of the Seaweed Academy is to catalyse growth of an industry that has a crucial role to play in the UK’s net zero, regional growth and levelling up aspirations. It will provide an innovative service to the sector, from seeded line through to research and practical skills at SAMS’ existing seaweed farm sites.
Globally, SAMS said, the seaweed farming industry has been growing exponentially and is estimated to be worth around $15bn (£11.2bn) per annum. However, the vast majority of this activity is in Asia and there is huge growth potential in Europe, with a growing demand for seaweed from gourmet restaurants to livestock feeds.
Already used extensively in food ingredients, agriculture, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, seaweed farming has a low carbon footprint, using no fresh water and with minimal land-based infrastructure.
SAMS Director Prof Nick Owens said: “Using our own seaweed farms and the most up to date research, we have been laying foundations for a thriving UK seaweed farming industry. We are excited to now move into the next phase of training, education and business development, which will see our ambitions realised… we are grateful to the UK Government for its investment in this climate-friendly industry that will not only support the regional economy of the Highlands and Islands, but will show others an example of the best of the blue economy.”
The Seaweed Academy will be operated by SAMS, in partnership with SAMS Enterprise and Argyll College, a fellow academic partner within the University of the Highlands and Islands, and will deliver immediate economic benefit to Argyll and Bute. It also aims to stimulate the growth of UK seaweed aquaculture, exploring high-value markets, and using the latest research to increase the competitiveness of UK products globally.
SAMS will also promote seaweed production as a means of bioremediation, including the resulting carbon sequestration, to mitigate the impacts of climate change.