At the beginning of July, one million people headed to Korea for a seaweed focused conference to discuss the research of European project AT~SEA on textile based cultivation substrates.
SAMS, the first seaweed farm in the UK, looks at what it takes to grow and farm the marine plant, how it reacts to harvesting, what diseases affect it in its environment and whether or not the commercial farming of seaweed has a future in Scotland.
Growing the marine crop has widespread potential as biofuel [seaweed can be fermented into ethanol, which can be mixed with petrol; and can also be processed to create methane gas] for fertiliser, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and foods.
Farmers in South Korea are particularly interested in it, having placed record numbers of orders.
Seaweed farming in Asia
Due to its high concentrations of fatty acids, anti-collagenase and anti-elastase activity, some seaweed extracts are positioned as an anti-ageing ingredient with skin firming properties.
Although seaweed farming has been in practice for 100's of years in Asia, researchers now say they are focused on a new method that isn’t as labor-intensive to harvest the minerals used in so many cosmetics.
Researchers are looking to mechanize the process for large-scale seaweed production as well as cost-effective renewable energy processes for drying seaweed before overall costs shoot up.
The traditional method of seaweed farming is labor-intensive, where twines have to be impregnated with millimetre-sized seaweed embryos, which are then wound around ropes and left in the water to grow. The seaweed then has to be harvested by hand.
However, small-scale seaweed farms have started operating around the globe to harvest the marine macroalgae in more efficient ways.
The material belongs to one of the many groups of multicellular red, green and brown algae and is widely used to produce vitamin supplements or cosmetics in many parts of the world.