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Seaweed startup lands $9 million investment

Sustainability Technology & equipment Aquatic plants +5 more

Sea6 Energy, a vertically integrated seaweed producer, processor and developer headquartered in India with a subsidiary in Indonesia, has secured $9 million in funding.

The SeaCombine can both harvest and plant seaweed in offshore locations

© Sea6 Energy

Sea6 Energy has developed the proprietary SeaCombine, a fully mechanised cultivation system that can simultaneously harvest and replant seaweed in deep ocean waters, enabling cost competitive production at scale. Additionally, Sea6 has developed proprietary processing technologies to convert fresh seaweed into novel products for agriculture, animal health, food ingredients, bioplastics and renewable chemicals.

The series B investment round was led by Aqua-Spark*, the first investment fund focused on sustainable aquaculture, alongside co-investor, the Singapore-based Silverstrand Capital. The funds will contribute towards the financing of additional SeaCombine systems to increase supply of seaweed raw material, and expanding Sea6’s processing capacity with additional production facilities to produce Sea6’s agricultural biostimulant products, animal health products as well as a carrageenan plant based on an energy efficient and eco-friendly process.

"Investing in seaweed production has been a priority for us since we launched in 2015. We expect it to play a big part in the future of aquaculture, but, until now, we hadn’t come upon an operation that was both economically viable and was able to produce at scale. Sea6's first-of-its-kind innovation is well-positioned to impact how we farm seaweed and its utilization across industries. It gets us much closer to realising algae as a commercial scale aquafeed ingredient and as a direct source of protein for all. Their SeaCombine makes sustainably farming the ocean a possibility, while capturing CO2 and transforming it into valuable products. The company's approach impressed us from the start, and we're eager to integrate them into our portfolio and begin to work together,” said Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz, co-founders of Aqua-Spark, in a press release.

Sea6 energy was founded by (left to right) Nelson Vadassery, Sowmya Balendiran, Shrikumar Suryanarayan and Sailaja Nori

© Sea6 Energy

Sea6 was founded in 2010 at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT Madras). At that time, founders Sailaja Nori, Nelson Vadassery and Sowmya Balendiran had just graduated with degrees in biotechnology and Shrikumar Suryanarayan, the former R&D head of Biocon, was an adjunct faculty at the IIT Madras. Since launching, the founders have been working together to develop technology and products to better support the seaweed industry. They now cover the full supply chain – from farming seaweed, to product development, to selling to consumers.

"We are delighted to be part of the AquaSpark portfolio of companies. AquaSpark's vision of sustainability is very well aligned with Sea6's own vision. At Sea6 Energy, we are focused on cultivating and processing tropical seaweed species which have the advantage of high growth rates, large scalability and year round availability of biomass. This coupled with the fact that seaweed cultivation is a very sustainable operation makes this biomass a versatile and ideal raw material that can be used for a variety of Industrial purposes to greatly reduce their carbon footprint," said Shrikumar Suryanarayan, managing director and co-founder of Sea6 energy.

The composition of seaweed makes it a good starting material for products ranging from food and feed, to biofuel and bioplastics. Seaweed cultivation is still a young industry. Most of the traditional production process is labour-intensive, and restricted to shallow and calm water areas, so the industry’s major challenge is to cultivate seaweed at a large scale and in an economically viable way. The SeaCombine reduces the labour intensity required to harvest and seed the seaweed and can do this directly on the sea. In addition, the SeaCombine allows farming in deeper and rougher waters than otherwise possible by traditional methods.

Furthermore, Sea6 has developed proprietary methods that can stabilize fresh seaweed for long periods of time and process the stored or fresh seaweed directly into a variety of products. Reducing farming and processing costs opens up a broad range of product applications. For example, Sea6 has patented biostimulants and biodefence products for agriculture and plant health, an animal feed additive product that can stimulate innate immunity pathways in both aquaculture and poultry applications , additionally, it has developed a process for an eco-friendly carrageenan. Products in the future include renewable chemicals, as well as biodegradable plastics from seaweeds.

Sea6 claims to be the only fully integrated tropical sea agriculture and seaplant-based product manufacturing company in the world. To date, Aqua-Spark has now invested in 21 complementary companies, technologies, and inputs that are working toward the sustainable production of aquatic life.

*Aqua-Spark has invested in Hatch, but The Fish Site remains editorially independent.