Lies, damned lies, and seaweed market forecasts
Plus: NUQO accelerates, Vietnam's value chains, improving seed stocks with naked cells
I was asked recently if I could verify some of the seaweed production forecasts from the Seaweed for Europe report that came out in 2020. That report did a great job in highlighting the potential of the European seaweed industry, and I believe it really pushed things forward in policy circles. But some of those numbers don’t check out.
I asked Adrien Vincent, who co-authored the report, and he agreed that, 2 years in, even the conservative estimate (2.4 million tonnes of seaweed produced in Europe by 2030) has started looking very ambitious indeed.
The Scotland Seaweed Assessment that came out last week went the other way. Their business-as-usual scenario predicted no cultivation whatsoever in Scotland until 2040. Reality has already caught up with that forecast as there are now 4 sea farms with lines in Scottish waters.
But even the high-growth scenario is low-balling it. 24 000 tonnes cultivated by 2040? Ok, it’s a possibility, we are all guessing at this point, but from what I hear, the consensus is that Scotland’s potential is much bigger than that.
The big lesson here is that, if you are looking for numbers to either support or invalidate your business case, you are sure to find them. Seaweed cultivation is so new in the West that any forecast necessarily has to rest on a dune of assumptions. Let’s not forget to ask what those assumptions are before copy-pasting a number into a business plan.
Investments and grants
Swedish Nordic Seafarm has raised 2 million euros from investors including vegan holding company Kale United to grow 300 tonnes of sugar kelp and sea lettuce by 2024. One element that supports that ambition is local government’s intention to simplify the rules for mariculture (SE).
Early-stage agrifood investor Rockstart brought Alganex into their portfolio. A digital platform for trading algae, Alganex wants to provide traceability of the supply chain, control of the product quality, AI-assisted algae advice and, importantly, a yield management pricing mechanism. Rockstart has previously invested in seaweed bioplastics startup Biotic.
Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands
WWF’s large-scale programme to build sustainable seaweed value chains in Vietnam and Philippines has gotten underway, yielding interesting numbers on the current size and future potential for Vietnamese seaweed cultivation.
In the Solomon Islands, seaweed is well-established as a business. Here the focus for development is on creating value add, reducing biosecurity risks, and increasing food sovereignty.
More detail was released after last newsletter’s announcement of S. Arabia’s aquaculture plans. New city Neom wants to cultivate 17 000 tonnes of seaweed (dry weight) in the Red Sea.
Founded in 2020, feed additives producer NUQO is accelerating its expansion. It has been advancing the science of phycogenics since inception, and has now partnered with the University of Wels to discover new metabolites from seaweeds.
The company, with offices in France, The Netherlands and Thailand, and production facilities in France, Switzerland and Poland, is now creating new regional hubs to fuel expansion on 5 continents (FR).
In Sydney, Seaweed Naked Cells (Protoplasts) are being developed to generate quality seed stocks in nurseries and hatcheries. The technique can also be explored for gene editing and silencing. The university is also teaming up with a surf company to develop a new seaweed textile.
Growing seaweeds in wastewater from oat processing or shrimp boiling results in greater growth and increased protein content, thereby offering a new nutrient loop for an otherwise discarded resource.
How to engineer a low-cost kelp farm that can quickly turn a profit for an American fishing family? Like this.
Ten new species of Ulva discovered in New Caledonia.
To digest seaweed, you need sea genes.