Aquaculture for all

Seaweed producers should target high end markets

Aquatic plants

Potential entrants into the UK’s nascent seaweed aquaculture industry should set their sights on high value markets.

So believes Simon Ranger, of the Seaweed Health Foundation (SHF), who spoke to the Fish Site ahead of the Foundation’s fifth annual gathering, which is taking place in Edinburgh in September.

“Lower value markets already exist for the seaweed aquaculture industry in animal feed and other agricultural applications,” he argued. “But, in my view, this is not the market to enter, since the infrastructure required is quite different to that for the higher value markets which will, I am sure, develop in time.”

He believes the current trend, towards bulk cultivation of low value species, is misguided.

“There are many academic and grant-driven projects currently ongoing. These may certainly fund the institutions in the short term, but in my view are headed in the wrong direction for the aquaculture industry. We will be addressing some of these issues during our event,” he added.

The event in question aims to celebrate the growing interest in seaweed as a source of nutrition and health in the western world is taking place at the Royal Botanic Garden, on 2-3 September. It is set to include two days of talks by members of the Foundation, healthcare professionals, researchers, foragers, and seaweed producers, and will feature displays and demonstrations of commercially available seaweed food and nutrition products for the public to explore and try.

“We usually have more than 1000 visitors and the event has become something of an institution,” Simon continued. “The venue is of course rather beautiful, but it gives a marvellous context to the simple fact that our larder and our medicine chest do not end at the shoreline, of which Scotland has an infinite length and resource.”

The seaweed industry appears to be gaining considerable momentum at the moment, particularly in the British Isles, as Simon points out.

“Harvesting wild seaweed for food, which on an artisan basis is well established in Ireland and has emerged in England, Scotland and Wales too over the past decade, may, as markets also emerge and stabilise, engender a new industry in the British Isles of good potential value to our economy,” he continues.

However, he believes that the time is ripe for a shift towards culturing, as opposed to wild harvest, of key seaweed species.

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