A startup grows seaweed offshore for crop biostimulants and livestock feed additives
Spotted: With the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimating that the world will need to produce 60 per cent more food by 2050 to feed our growing population, the race is on to find means of increasing production that don’t place additional strain on the environment. And for UK startup Algapelago, the nutrient-rich ocean holds the key to sustainable and regenerative agriculture.
To tap into this oceanic bounty, the company is cultivating seaweed, which absorbs nutrients from seawater. Requiring no land, water, pesticides, or fertilisers to grow, seaweed has a remarkably low environmental footprint, and seaweed forests also act as powerful carbon sinks and hubs for biodiversity.
Algapelago has established its low-impact seaweed forest four miles off the Devon coast – a location selected for its cold, clean, nutrient-rich waters. To cultivate in this offshore environment, the startup has developed a sophisticated, yet replicable, infrastructure of anchors, floats, and ropes.
Working with a network of local experts, the company grows the seaweed from seed to crop and then converts it into useful products for downstream industries using a low-energy conversion process that doesn’t require energy-intensive drying. The Devon forest has already been through a successful season, with the Algapelago team working to further scale and optimise the process for subsequent harvests.
The company plans to develop two key products from its seaweed. The first is a feed supplement for livestock, which will improve animal health and lower methane emissions, while the second is a crop biostimulant that will improve soil health. Both will be available from mid-2024. In addition, the company sells Sugar kelp and Oarweed (two types of seaweed) in bulk and is pioneering ‘blue carbon’ and ‘biodiversity net gain’ credits for organisations wishing to invest in carbon sequestration and nature.
Seaweed is a material à la mode and Springwise has spotted several startups working to cultivate and put it to use. This includes seaweed composites for homewares, seaweed farms grown beneath wind turbines, and bio-based plastics made from macroalgae.
Written By: Matthew Hempstead