- The European Commission is planning large-scale industrial farming of seaweed across the continent’s shores. - The goal is to farm 8 million metric tons of seaweed annually by 2030, up from the current annual farmed production of about 3,000 metric tons. - Proponents tout a sustainable form of farming that can produce food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biofuels, and sequester carbon. - However, the potential ecological impacts have yet to be fully assessed.
BANTRY BAY, Ireland – Claire O’Sullivan runs her small family firm, Wild Atlantic Seaweed Ireland, out of her house a short walk from Bantry Bay on the country’s southwestern coast. Her wild kelp is hand-harvested, a sustainable and traditional method of collecting seaweed. The company focuses on niche high-end products: Seaweed Infused Beard Oil, €15.00 for 50 milliliters ($14.66 for 1.7 fluid ounces), and Chilli and Lemongrass Seaweed Pesto, €5.60 for 100 grams ($5.43 for 3.5 ounces).
Since seaweed is packed with vitamins, fiber, protein and antioxidants, it has joined kale and quinoa to become a superfood. “My grandmother swore by carrageen moss,” O’Sullivan says. “She had everyone eating seaweed and she lived to be 103 years old. And my nanny was the same and she reached 100.”
But O’Sullivan’s company is only a tiny part of the massive global seaweed industry, currently worth an estimated €40 billion ($39.2 billion). According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world harvested 35.8 million metric tons in 2019. Asia accounted for 97% of total production, of which China produced 57%.
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