August 25 2020

Macroalgae Biomass

Macroalgae Biomass:
A Sustainable Feedstock for Food, Feed, Fuels and Chemicals

Marc von Keitz, U.S. DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) was the moderator. The 4th Spotlight Series from the Algae Biomass Summit was all about macroalgae biomass

Today macroalgae and microalgae worlds are beginning to overlap. Whether it’s through adoption of technologies that worked for one industry being adapted to work in the other, or creating more value to the consumer by combining macroalgae biomass and microalgae ingredients into more functional foods and nutraceuticals.

This session was a fantastic overview of macroalgae for the ABO community, many of whom are more traditionally focused on microalgae. After today’s session we believe the macroalgae industry has piqued our interest and gained many more fans!
The session consisted of 5 excellent speakers. Let’s dive into one of those presentations, by Paul Dobbins titled:
Seaweed Farming. A Conservation Organization Perspective
Paul Dobbins is an expert in the field who provides thought leadership an financial expertise on how seaweed and shellfish aquaculture can be scaled. Before joining the Word Wildlife Fund, Paul spent 10 years leading the development of the countries first open ocean commercial kelp farms and served on the advisory board for NOAA Sea Grant.
Paul is the Senior Director for impact investing for ecosystem services and lead specialist for seaweed and bivalve at WWF. Their project “Advancing Aquaculture for Climate Gain” focuses on seaweed farming for the ecosystem services it provides, high yields of nutritious biomass, and creates jobs in our coastal communities.

What is carrying capacity?

A key concern for many farmers is carrying capacity. This is the yield that can be harvested out of out of a body of water sustainably year after year. WWF is concerned about the carrying capacity of the earth. With our current population growth and consumption patterns, we’re consuming more than the earth can sustain. That’s a really and scary thing to think about. Luckily there is an underutilized resource – the ocean! And we can grow seaweed in the ocean. There are 40 species of macroalgae are farmed each year, and their yields continue to improve with strain selection.  These seaweeds are farmed for food, feed, extracts, and emerging bioplastics technology. The beauty of this is that it requires no arable land, freshwater, feed, pesticides, or fertilizers.

We can all agree that farming 40 species is impressive. Scientist believe there are over 12,000 species of seaweed in the worlds oceans! We put these species into three buckets:

  • The Reds
  • The Greens
  • The Browns – more commonly known as kelp’s

That gives us so much opportunity to identify new species that can be added to the species currently farmed. To produce biomass, animal feed, human feed, bioplastics, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceuticals to name a few.

Seaweed Macroalgae biomass

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of seaweeds? Most likely you think of the traditional, carrageenan, agar, etc. There is actually lots of opportunity for product innovation. There’s growing evidence that feeding seaweed to animals can help the animals be healthier, and may even reduce the methane they create. Scientists are examining if seaweeds could be a good feed for finfish and other marine aquacultured species. Many species of seaweed have a high sugar content and can even be used to make alcohol.

Seaweed farming can absorb CO2, phosphorus, and nitrogen. This has a positive environmental impact within their farms, and also on the surrounding water column.

The good news is there’s lots of space for seaweed farming still available! Time to create some macroalgae biomass and save the planet at the same time 🙂

The Macroalgae Biomass Session Speakers included:

Paul Dobbins
Seaweed Farming. A Conservation Organization Perspective

Javier Infante, Ocean Rainforest
Large Scale Macroalgae Cultivation Systems (Macrosystems)

Ignacio Navarrete, University of Southern California
A Depth-cycling Approach to Open-ocean Seaweed Mariculture

Vincent Doumeizel, Lloyd’s Register Foundation
Time to Launch a Global Coalition for Safe Seaweed Production

Beau Perry, Blue Evolution
Pacific Coast Seaweed – What It Takes to Build a New Industry

Please visit the Algae Biomass Organization website to find out more about this years virtual summit. Still lots of time to join and be part of the algae community.