New seaweed industry
“Using seaweed to produce textiles could start a new maritime industry,” Bert Groenendaal of Sioen Industries has told MJ. Although a novel idea, the reality comes closer this week with the deployment of 200 square metres of growing medium.
Seaweed is a rich, but so far underexploited resource with potential for the food, biochemical, biofuel and – now - textile industries. However it has a reputation for being difficult to harvest, an issue directly tackled by the EU-funded AT~SEA project which has brought four research centres and seven companies, including Sioen, together to crack the challenge. The result has been a new system that gives high yields as well as easy, mechanised cultivation from floating seaweed farms.
Tests at sites in Solund, Norway, Oban, Scotland and Galway in Ireland have produced yields of up to 16kg of wet seaweed per square metre – three to five times that of traditional seaweed farming and this week will see deployment of a larger trial, totalling 200m² across the three sites. Results are looking positive, said Mr Groenendaal, and next year may well see 8 hectares of seaweed cultivation.
Mr Groenendaal explained that the growing mats are located close to shore and submerged by 1.5m or 2m, ideally in water depths of around 10m to 15m as this keeps the kelp above the churn of any sediment. Deployment of the substrate and harvesting of the seaweed could be done by small work boats fitted with a crane, or off-season fishing vessels.
By Stevie Knight
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