25 July 2014 – This week a UK science minister visited one of our pioneering seaweed projects, where industry and academia are working together to turn research in to a marketable business.
The science minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Lord de Mauley, went to a project site on Loch Fyne where government and industry funding of almost £0.5m is being used by researchers and food producers to see if it is commercially reasonable to farm seaweed in tanks on land for the food market.
At the Loch Fyne site, SAMS and industry partners Mara Seaweed and Otter Ferry Seafish Ltd are developing ways to farm edible seaweed on a scale to match increasing commercial demand. The project called S3EED (Seaweed as a Solution for Sustainable Economic and Environmental Development) aims to create reliable year-round production of four native seaweed species (Ulva lactuca, Palmaria palmata, Chondrus crispus and Osmundea pinnatifida) for which there is renewed and increasing interest in UK as food products.
"It was great to visit Loch Fyne to see funding from the UK Government's Agri-Tech Strategy bringing industry and academia together to turn an innovative idea into a commercial reality,” said Lord de Mauley.
In Asia, where seaweed is a mainstay of diet, demand has created the world’s largest aquaculture industry, but in UK and Europe use of seaweed for food has only recently begun to grow beyond waning traditional customs.
Lead scientist on the S3EED project Dr Adam Hughes said: “The S3EEDs project is really exciting, a true collaboration between industry and academia, where we are able to translate our research directly into commercial benefit for the companies involved. It’s brilliant seeing the seaweed growth improve month on month knowing that this is the as a result of the application of our science.”
The business-academia partnership is made up of SAMS, a global leader in seaweed cultivation research; Edinburgh-based Mara Seaweed, the UK’s leading producer of seaweed food products; and Otter Ferry Seafish Ltd, an established aquaculture firm and recent winner of BBC Radio 4’s Food and Farming Award.
Mara Seaweed’s founder Fiona Houston said: "Mara wants to develop a farmed supply of seaweeds that we are currently harvesting from the wild so that we can expand and bring new premium food products to market. We are really pleased to be working in partnership with two aquaculture experts, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, and Otter Ferry Seafish, who are helping us turn our commercial goal into a reality."
The project is is funded through the Technology Strategy Board's Agri-Tech Catalyst
Eleven projects involving businesses and universities across Scotland have received a £4m share of £11m funding from government and industry to develop their innovative business ideas.
Further details on the Agri-Tech Catalyst projects are available here