Seaweed is a versatile ingredient that may be utilized as a meal and in producing a wide variety of goods, including cosmetics, textiles, recyclable packaging, and even bioenergy. Seaweed is most commonly used to wrap sushi and add flavor to soups.
In most cases, seaweed is cultivated on ropes or nets hung in the water, but the current methods make production on a big scale nearly tricky. Shrikumar Suryanarayan, CEO & founder of Bangalore-based Sea6 Energy and former chief executive of research and development at Biocon, an Indian pharmaceutical firm that focuses on biologically-sourced medicines, referred to ocean farming as being in the “stone ages” in a recent interview. Sea6 Energy is situated in Bangalore. “It is the equivalent of cultivating land with a pick and a trowel.”
With the help of its “Sea Combine,” an automated catamaran that collects and regrows seaweed in the sea simultaneously, Sea6 Energy, a company established in 2010, aims to modernize ocean farming in the same way that tractors mechanized farming on land.
The machine moves in a circular pattern between the rows of seaweed, collecting the mature plants for harvesting and replacing them with new rows of seedlings at regular intervals.
At the moment, a prototype is being tested at the seaweed farm that the Firm operates off the coast of Indonesia. According to Suryanarayan, the country in Southeast Asia has a long history of seaweed farming, which consists of villagers attaching pieces of seaweed to ropes and then transporting them out to the ocean. The seaweed is then harvested by hand from the lines after being hauled back in. There is a significant demand for crops in the country. The business wants to deploy more Sea Combines as the technology improves and the market expands; this includes the company’s native nation of India as one of the potential locations.
On board, the Sea Combine is a rotary cutter that removes any new growth that may have appeared on the plant that has been picked. Sea6 Energy deserves the credit.
According to research conducted by Fortune Business Insights, even though the global seaweed sector has gotten bigger between 2005 and 2015 and generated 33 million metric tons in 2018, further expansion of the market is anticipated to be hindered by the labor-intensive and expensive manufacturing operation.
According to Suryanarayan, the price of seaweed limits the kind of applications that may make use of it. It is typically only economically possible to employ seaweed for high-priced commercial services in the existing markets.
Suryanarayan’s goal is that the Sea Combine would reduce expenses and make seaweed more affordable so that it may find wider use. He thinks that this action would not hurt the livelihoods of local people since village cooperatives will be able to rent the machinery that will enable them to farm a greater area.
Food and energy sources
Suryanarayan describes the Sea Combine as only “a tool” in the context of the more significant Sea6 Energy endeavor. According to him, the Firm has already raised twenty million dollars in finance. It is presently using the seaweed gathered by the machine to produce items such as animal feed and agricultural fertilizer on a limited scale.
Although Suryanarayan acknowledges that it has been a long path for the Firm, mainly owing to a lack of funding in its early days, he feels that it is now at an “inflexion point,” as the grounds have been set, innovation has been created. There is tremendous interest internationally in the capability of seaweed to address climate change.
The next stage for the Firm is to extend its variety of goods based on seaweed, and it plans to start with bioplastics, which it hopes to begin producing within the next three years.
The European Union has provided financing for research into seaweed as a potential biodegradable replacement for plastic throughout the past decade. This idea has been kicking about for quite some time. Seaweed was already employed by the startup company Notpla, located in London, to develop environmentally friendly packaging for beverages and sauces. Sea6 Energy is in the first phase of producing its recyclable film as a potential replacement for plastic and paper bags.
But the most ambitious goal that the Firm has set for itself is to turn seaweed into bio fuel, which will help India become less reliant on crude oil. Suryanarayan concedes that there is still a significant amount of work to be done before it can be considered economically viable, even though the company’s scientific study indicates that it would be technologically practical.
Vincent Doumeizel, who directs the Food Programme at the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, a nonprofit organization that facilitates research and innovation, and who also serves as a senior advisor at the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the project of the United Nations that promotes sustainability practices, is deeply suspicious. CNN Business quotes him saying that to create a few litres of oil, “we might need hectares and hectares” of seaweed. Growing seaweed for use as a bio fuel, in my opinion, is equivalent to someone using gold to pay for stones.
Instead, according to Doumeizel, Sea6 Energy should focus its efforts on domains in which seaweed can create an immediate impact. According to him, seaweed-enriched livestock feed can minimize bovine methane emissions since it includes substances that stop bacteria in a cow’s gut from generating the gas; biopolymers could contribute to carbon reduction; the nutritionally balanced plants could continue to feed the growing human population. It is because seaweed includes compounds that prevent bacteria from producing the gas.
But first, industry funding needs to pick up speed, says Doumeizel, who adds that he applauds the work of businesses creating technologies for the industrial-scale growing of cannabis.
Sea6 Energy is not the only company involved in this. The Norwegian firm Seaweed Solutions produced a structure called the “Seaweed Carrier,” which is similar to a sheet and is capable of growing enormous quantities of kelp in deep water. Additionally, the Belgian company AtSeaNova designed a floating seeding and harvesting system.
According to Suryanarayan, “one of the methods… to improve the sustainability of the earth is through the cultivation of marine life through aquaculture.” “Our work and trip will be successful if we can demonstrate that it is possible to make a profit from it,”