Aquaculture for all

Fresh seaweed trial underway

Education & academia

A trial that aims to help to create one of the UK's first seaweed farms, near Oban, is now underway.

Run by researchers from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), the site off the island of Lismore currently only covers one hectare, but it is hoped that it will be able to produce 100 tonnes of seaweed a year.

Although there are a number of established companies successfully harvesting wild seaweed from around the UK’s coastline, this would be one of the first attempts to seek to cultivate it commercially – an initiative which has been inspired, in part, by the Scottish government’s decision to issue its first set of guidelines for the commercial cultivation of seaweed last month.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, Dr Adrian Macleod, from SAMS, said: "The main thing is quality, so if you're producing seaweed for food you want to have control over the life cycle so you can produce a product which is high in the desirable compounds you're after.

"So, cultivating in this way gives us a lot more control over the quality and the species that we're growing."

Dr Macleod added: "We also need to look at ways to produce systems for cultivating seaweed which automate the seeding, harvesting and the storage of the seaweed products. And in this way we hope to create an industry that is both economically viable and an industry which is great for the future."

Fellow scientist Dr Phil Kerrison told the broadcaster: "We're working on a number of different projects and they are aimed mainly at the production of biofuels but also working with companies who are using it for food or as animal fodder. So there's many different uses for this crop.

"Scotland's got excellent conditions for seaweed. They're cold species, these kelps that we're growing. They like nice, cold nutrient-rich conditions and we have a plethora of areas around here that are perfect."

The global seaweed industry, 96% of which comes from Asia, is valued at more than £4 billion a year.

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