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Exploring the potential for offshore seaweed cultivation

Holdfast Seaweed is a seaweed aquaculture start-up project that is focussed on the potential for offshore seaweed aquaculture and processing bio stimulants for agriculture, bio diesel and later bio-plastics. 

Their Director, Peter Adams, explains:

“Our company is looking at scaling up a seaweed cultivation programme from current technology near shore to offshore facilities. To date, industrial scale offshore seaweed aquaculture is still a new concept, but it is one that is starting to gain interest. 

“Since we are breaking completely new ground, there are many areas that will need dedicated research, such as the design of growing platforms (including small scale power generation) and new moorings solutions. So there is a need for wide ranging research and evaluation before we can start the journey toward commercialisation.”

To help with their strategic planning the company engaged with the Marine-i project. The experts at Marine-i lead partner, University of Exeter, are carrying out a two stage intensive research project.

The first stage is to conduct detailed analysis of the production of seaweed using an existing long line farm operational case study. This will provide estimates of production (in terms of quantity and quality) and of the major costs associated with setting up and running a seaweed farm. It will also examine specific infrastructure considerations such as anchors, lines and the vessel handling requirements, as well as alternative production methods and market potential for seaweed products.

The second stage will investigate remote offshore energy systems for aquaculture specific applications. It will explore available and close-to-market technologies for energy generation in remote offshore environments to suit the capacity and applications required in seaweed farming. A particular focus is the provision of buoyancy to seaweed strings provided by floats which can be deflated or inflated to adjust water column position. Pressure building systems as well as electricity generation systems will be investigated.

Peter Adams says:

“The expert support that we are receiving from University of Exeter through Marine-i is invaluable for this project. It will provide the critical information that we need to move forward, while also helping to map out the key steps for the RD&I process and the crucial challenges that we need to address.” 

Prof Lars Johanning, Programme Director for Marine-i, says:

“The worldwide market for cultivated seaweed is growing at a rapid pace, with increasing demand from industries such as food and cosmetics. Innovations like those being explored by Holdfast Seaweed will be key to realising the full potential of this market.

In the long term, it could help to establish Cornwall as an important player in this market, thus creating new jobs in the supply chain.”

[Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash]