Red seaweed/ Chondracanthus chamissoi. (Photo: Stock File)
Research could lead to sustainable cultivation of red seaweeds
Friday, December 24, 2010, 16:50 (GMT + 9)
Chilean scientists have been able to develop the cultivation of a red seaweed known as 'sea chicory' (Chondracanthus chamissoi) without affecting the marine ecosystem through biotechnology.
This edible seaweed is widely used in Asia, especially by the Japanese, who consider it a healthy food for its high nutritional value, low fat, vitamins and proteins.
This seaweed grows only along the coasts of Chile and Peru, and has great economic potential, because Japan is the second largest consumer of seaweed around the world.
The project is headed by Dr. Cristian Bulboa, Director of Aquaculture Engineering at the Universidad Andrés Bello (UNAB), together with Dr. Juan Macchiavello, professor at the U. North Catholic, and has the support of the Fund for the Promotion of Scientific and Technological Development (Fondef).
Bulboa said that coastal communities in regions III, IV and VIII perform the extraction of this species only in spring, so it is a temporary source of income, although "there are no commercial plantings of the species."
He also recalled that the species has been "overexploited especially in regions III and IV, causing serious problems in resource recovery."
This red seaweed in Chile is only used as a gelling agent and emulsifier for food, while for the Japanese it is part of their daily diet.
It is estimated that in the coming years, they will see an increase in demand for the resource, which also has attractive prices in the market.
However, the UNAB specialist noted that "there is a high quality standard that requires seaweeds to be free of impurities, with definite forms of color and size."
In this regard, he explained that seaweeds can not get these features from the extraction of natural grasslands, as there is a high risk of crop contamination.
For that reason, scientists developed a model for controlled breeding that can also be used for the whole year and not only in the spring.
To reproduce the red seaweed, scientists conducted the cultivation of spores, using the gendered way of the species to control the quality and quantity of production.
In addition, the experts included the use of "Secondary Retaining Plates (DFS)" to develop the body of the seaweed plant as an alternative strategy for it's cultivation.
This gives rise to fast-growing seaweed which "form resistant structures and are able to survive from the parent plant that it originated from, generating new shoots that develop into mature plants," explained the researcher from UNAB.
Thus, the scientists achieved the production of this seaweed in large quantities "without touching the natural population", which was achieved by sustainable production.
The production period of the red seaweed takes six months, with a first stage of fattening of two to three months in the laboratory, after which it is moved to marine pools for three months.
By Silvina Corniola