The project claims it will have an output of EUR 20 million by 2013. (Photo: BIM)
Seaweed aquaculture to bring EUR 20 mln by 2013
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Wednesday, August 11, 2010, 01:50 (GMT + 9)
A new project seeks to offer essential research data on the cultivation of three popular seaweed species for food and fertilizer that could fetch EUR 20 million annually by 2013.
The cultivation project a joint collaboration between Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Irish Sea Fisheries Board and the Marine Institute and is being funded by the Sea Change Strategy and the Marine Research Sub-programme of the National Development Plan, 2007-2013.
“There is no doubt that Irish seaweed offers great potential and I am looking forward to the group's final report which will provide the necessary data to enable industry to grow a relatively small niche sector with a current estimated output of EUR 10 million annually to an output of EUR 20 million by 2013,” stated Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Sean Connick, TD.
Coordinated by BIM, the research group includes diverse academic and industrial partners like the Queen's University Belfast (QUB) and the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) and Irish seaweed companies such as Cartron Point Shellfish Ltd, Tower Aqua products Ltd, Dolphin Sea Vegetable Co and G and B Barge Operators Ltd.
The group intends to grow three profitable seaweed species -- two red seaweeds, dillisk (Palmaria palmata), (Porphyra sp) or 'nori' and the brown seaweed kelp (Laminaria digitata) -- on a commercial scale in sea sites all around Ireland. Their cultivation requires a laboratory phase, currently being perfected, plus an on-growing phase at sea.
Kelp has been grown successfully on longlines in Roaring Water Bay, making it the first pilot-scale harvest of cultivated kelp on European longlines. Typically dried and packaged Laminaria digitata can demand EUR 10- EUR 16/kg for bulk quantities.
"The aim of the project is to develop and trial industry-scale hatchery and ongrowing methodologies for a number of seaweed species which have been identified as having commercial value, and to transfer that technology to create new business opportunities in seaweed aquaculture." said Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, who are co-ordinating the Sea Change programme.
The team has been working through the reproductive season to build stocks of seeded material of Palmaria for the on-growing period at sea in winter 2010. There is currently over a km of seeded Palmaria string -- the largest concerted effort for growing it yet.
This is also the first time Palmaria has been grown with vertically deployed nets instead of deployed droppers. The total biomass produced will be determined in the next two months.
Wild sourced dried and packaged bulk Palmaria currently goes for EUR 16-EUR19/kg.
Porphyra, the most valuable seaweed food product, can fetch up to EUR 162 per 100g. But it has a complicated life cycle, so it is potentially more difficult and more expensive for farming.
Native Irish species have never been tested in cultivation trials before. In this project, a native species is being tested in the North for potential farming in Strangford Lough, constituting the first trials of its kind in Ireland and the UK.
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By Natalia Real
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member BIM - Irish Sea Fisheries Board (An Bord Iascaigh Mhara)