Sustainable Commercial Seaweed Farming Techniques Intensify

Jan 30,2020

Commercial seaweed aquaculture has come a long way in the last few decades. The commercial seaweed space offers lucrative growth opportunities for stakeholders operating in the current market landscape primarily driven by a host of advanced harvesting techniques entering the fray. Mounting environmental concerns coupled with the impact of climate change on the marine ecosystem have persuaded commercial seaweed farmers to mend their ways and lean toward a more productive and sustainable approach. Current trends in the commercial seaweed sector suggest a shift away from wild harvesting of algae toward controlled seaweed cultivation.

While the Asia Pacific region has traditionally been at the forefront in cultivating and harvesting seaweed, in recent times, developments across Europe and North America have gained noteworthy momentum. Despite advances in commercial seaweed farming, participants of this sector are seeking solutions to address a range of challenges such as the production of strains with high thermo tolerance, rapid growth, resistance to diseases, and minimization of fouling organisms among others. Operators in the commercial seaweed value chain are also swaying toward the development of cost-effective and highly robust seaweed farming systems that can cope with the various occurrences in offshore environments.

Commercial Seaweed Farming Proliferates in South East and East Asia

Commercial seaweed activities have gained notable traction within the aquaculture world in recent times. Advances in the field have revealed that seaweed has multiple commercial applications and tremendous potential to enhance the wellbeing of the human population residing in the coastal regions of the developing regions. Over the past decade, the seaweed aquaculture space in the developed regions including Europe and North America has witnessed waves of development owing to the flurry of small-scale commercial and pilot projects in these regions.

The seaweed sector is a booming multi-billion industry wherein countries in South East Asia and East Asia are at the helm in terms of production. Some of the countries spearheading their way in the commercial seaweed market include Indonesia, China, the Philippines, and South Korea. In these countries, on-the-ground seaweed-aquaculture enhancement projects are enabling the large-scale production of red seaweeds. For instance, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has actively invested in such projects particularly in Indonesia for the past four years.

 Processed red seaweed is primarily used as a thickening agent - commonly found in modern-day cosmetic and industrial food products. Besides these uses, new opportunities are emerging wherein tropical seaweed is expected to provide answers to a range of critical societal requirements including biofuels, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and sustainable animal feeds. According to a study presented by World Bank, the surge in commercial seaweed farming especially across the tropical regions of South East and East Asia have tremendous potential to improve environmental health, food security, and at the same time, boost local income levels.

Scientists Explore Potential of Underwater Seaweed Farming to Combat Climate Change

In the past few years, research activities have gained center stage in the commercial seaweed sector owing to the growing environmental concerns. According to a group of researchers and scientists, underwater seaweed forests could potentially assist in combating climate change. Scientists across the Asia Pacific region are coming together to reduce the impact of commercial seaweed farming on the environment. The scientists have revealed that underwater commercial seaweed farming could be the next ‘big thing’ in the seaweed aquaculture space as it could possibly fight climate change. Government bodies across the Pacific island countries such as New Zealand are allocating funds for commercial seaweed projects that are predominantly aimed to streamline the seaweed aquaculture industry.

The commercial seaweed space is on course to witness some major developments and move beyond the clutches of the traditional stronghold of East Asia toward Europe and North America.  

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