Cultivating seaweed on large scale for food and skin products

Press release, February 2016:

 

While running out of farmland, new opportunities show up for growing sea-crops in the oceans. Many seaweed species are highly nutritious and rich in bioactive substances, those can serve as ingredients for food and cosmetics.

 

In Far East, longlines of seaweed - also known as macroalgae - is a common sight at the 

surface of the sea, however, seaweed cultivation is still at a modest level in Denmark and in Europe. 

 

A project financed by "Innovation Fund Denmark" aims at cultivating seaweed in particular brown seaweeds in the Danish and Faroese waters. Brown seaweeds contain various valuable substances such as antioxidants, protein, polysaccharides and minerals that may be used as functional ingredients in feed, food products and skin lotions. For example, the sugar component laminarin has proven antitumor, anticoagulative, anti-inflammatory and anticoagulation effects. 

 

- It's all about using seaweed components for feed, food ingredients, and skin products. The substances in seaweeds need be refined to the degree of purity that may be required for the different application, says Anne-Belinda Bjerre, Adjunct Professor at Aalborg University and Senior Consultant at the Danish Technological Institute, and adds:

 

- In other cases, it may be an advantage to harvest seaweeds e.g. for feed or food  

products directly from the strings at sea, at time when the substances are highest in 

concentration and even try to avoid a refining process. We therefore devote a lot of  

attention to the seasonal development of the bioactive substances of the seaweeds so that nature can also refine it for us.

 

Seaweeds have no roots, although they fix to solid materials by gluing themselves onto 

e.g. stones. Currently, work is being done to grow seaweed on ropes and other materials. For example, 2D textiles that look like metre-long sheets can be used for growth of seaweeds and are well-suited for large-scale production. 

 

- The agricultural and food sectors are top priorities for the Danish government, since we have already unique skills and knowledge and we foresee high potentials for job creation in both sectors. We want to elevate and further develop research within these areas by prioritising such funding from "Innovation Fund Denmark". This means that projects like MAB4 focusing on seaweed as an untapped resource can be realised and potentially create new jobs in Denmark, says Minister for Higher Education and Science, Esben Lunde Larsen. 

 

MAB4 is a project with a consortium of national and international experts on algea 

cultivation and biorefinery from universities, GTS institutes, small and medium-sized 

businesses as well as relevant industrial end-users. The results from MAB4 will be a 

beacon for industry stakeholders and future seaweed cultivation.

 

Potential benefit to society 

Seaweed is a relatively new raw material in this part of the world. The project aims to 

cultivate seaweed and extract its chemical substances for eco-friendly production of 

animal feed, food ingredients and skin lotions. This means that it can also help to address the need for farmland with little space for growing more crops.

 

Contact:

For questions, please contact Anne-Belinda Bjerre: +45 7220 2912 or anbj@dti.dk