Seaweed as sustainable food for people and animals

seaweed

Seaweed is on the rise as a sustainable source of protein for people and animals alike. In the four-year Social Innovation Programme ‘Seaweed for Food and Feed’, Wageningen University & Research and the North Sea Farm foundation are partnering with industry to develop a comprehensive and sustainable seaweed sector. The work involves multifunctional seaweed farms in the North Sea linked to a land-based chain for logistics, processing and sales to the food industry. Dutch State Secretary of Economic Affairs Martijn van Dam has pledged to invest five million euros in Seaweed for Food and Feed.

Seaweed is a nutritious and versatile crop that is increasingly important as a healthy and sustainable protein source for people and animals. Seaweed production does not require agricultural land or fresh water, and all its biomass can be used. The purpose of Seaweed for Food and Feed is to create a sustainable source of healthy food products, additives and feed by means of cultivation in the Dutch waters.

Large-scale seaweed production

Large-scale seaweed production for human and animal food in Western Europe is yet to become profitable. The innovations from Seaweed for Food and Feed should result in a higher yield for seaweed and a reduction of the production costs via measures such as the utilisation of all seaweed components, a circular approach, local production and a chain approach. The new knowledge will be used for the production of new thickening agents, special (low-calorie) sugars for food and feed, and ingredients for aromatics, colourants and flavourings.

Maximise seaweed value

Seaweed for Food and Feed applies various lines of knowledge and innovations to maximise the value of seaweed:

• The selection and breeding of high-quality varieties
• Optimal cultivation systems and optimal locations (to ensure the composition of the seaweed is as favourable as possible)
• Multiple processing of seaweed to ensure all components are optimally used at the highest possible economic value
• Making seaweed products more appealing to consumers by developing attractive products and accessible information
• High-quality applications, such as the utilisation of nutritional value, reducing the use of antibiotics and applications for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.

Wageningen University & Research has been carrying out research into issues such as the applications of seaweed, the economic feasibility of the sector and consumer acceptance for many years. The Seaweed for Food and Feed programme is aimed at developing a comprehensive and sustainable seaweed sector in the Netherlands.