A pioneering seaweed farm has been awarded over £2.8 million in funding, as part of UK government plans to scale up domestic renewable energy, including from biomass.
SeaGrown, the UK’s first large-scale offshore seaweed farm, operates a 25-hectare site in the North Sea, around four miles east of Scarborough, on the North Yorkshire coast, where it grows a sustainable crop of carbon-rich seaweed
Seaweed can be used for many different applications such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food, bioplastics and fertilisers but particularly exciting is its ability to draw down very large amounts of carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere as it grows.
At the same time as absorbing carbon, seaweed releases oxygen into the surrounding water and uses up other excess nutrients and creates new habitats allowing marine life to flourish. Scientists estimate that acre-for-acre, seaweed is up to 20 times more effective at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere than woodland is onshore.
The funds will be used to ‘mechanise seaweed farming’; developing innovative farming systems allowing the practice to be adopted in UK offshore environments. The aim is to turn currently unused ‘biological deserts’ around the coast into areas teeming with life and biodiversity with a healthy ocean-enriching crop of sustainable biomass, a plant-based material used as fuel to produce heat or electricity.
Backed by the independent Climate Change Committee, biomass will form an important part of the UK’s future renewable energy mix.
"Seaweed is an incredibly versatile and sustainable source of biomass which shows great promise in our efforts to mitigate climate change."
SeaGrown operations director Wave Crookes said: “SeaGrown is very pleased to have won this opportunity to contribute to the UK's net zero innovation portfolio.
‘Seaweed is an incredibly versatile and sustainable source of biomass which shows great promise in our efforts to mitigate climate change. During this project, we are working with a multi-disciplinary team to transform the UK seaweed farming industry.
“Together we are developing innovative solutions to streamline offshore farming and allow other prospective operators to get started on creating sustainable jobs in their coastal communities, leveraging UK seaweed production and, in the process, providing maximum benefit to the marine environment.”
As well as ethically producing sustainable crops for industry, SeaGrown produces its own line of seaweed seasonings and bath products available online or from its ship Southern Star in Scarborough Harbour.