EU-backed macroalgae project wants to ‘prove the sceptics wrong’: ‘We aim to make seaweed a staple of European diets’
SeaMark represents the first ever Horizon Europe project to be hosted by a Faroese company.
Led by seaweed cultivation firm Ocean Rainforest, the project is bringing together 25 multi-disciplinary partners from Europe’s public and private sectors. Participants include the Carlsberg Group, Algaia, Nofima, Wageningen University & Research, and Aarhus University.
The end goal is to scale up macroalgae cultivation and processing techniques to develop 12 products for industry, demonstrating that the zero-carbon crop can be used in multiple industries with numerous socioeconomic and environmental benefits compared to terrestrial crops or petrochemicals.
Alongside market applications, the SeaMark project aims to quantify ecosystem services provided by seaweed farmers. In doing so, it hopes to contribute to a body of evidence justifying large-scale seaweed cultivation as a bioremediation tool and ‘key element’ of a new circular economy.
‘Every new industry has sceptics’
In valorising seaweed, the project partners are set on ‘proving the sceptics wrong’. According to Frederick Bruce, Project Consultant at SUBMARINER Network for Blue Growth, which is contributing to SeaMark, for any new industry ‘there are always critics’.
“Scale, cost, regulation, and carbon storage are all common discussion points, and delivering certainty for investors is the whole point of SeaMark,” he told FoodNavigator.
“The project will provide the cold hard evidence that seaweed can be farmed competitively at scale, overcome regulatory hurdles and benefit the environment while meeting the needs of multiple emerging bio-based industries from food to biomaterials.”
Compared to established feedstocks such as soy or petrochemicals – both of which Bruce stressed have a ‘massive head start’, not to mention ‘enormous environmental impacts’ – seaweed is a ‘genuinely sustainable underdog’. “And who doesn’t love an underdog?”
Making seaweed a diet staple
The 12 SeaMark products will target multiple industries, from food to packaging, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and feed.
Those relevant to the food industry include dietary fibres for food formulation, fermented fibres for meat alternatives, green alginate for food texturization, as well as mineral concentrates and proteins.
The alternative protein market is one of several ‘rapid growth sectors’ which SeaMark will tap into, Bruce told this publication.
“The reason is that there is an increasing demand from consumers to reduce the fraction of mass-produced animal protein in the diets in the context of food and nutrition security as well as climate change.”
Seaweed, he told us, offers a ‘smorgasbord’ of functional ingredients which can meet that demand while improving taste, health, nutrition, resource efficiency and carbon emissions.
“The SeaMark project aims to substantiate these claims to make seaweed a staple of future European diets.”