Seaweed is a compelling feedstock for food and chemical industries, for example as an alternative source for protein and the production of “green gas”. A condition for profitable seaweed cultivation is a year-round supply of large volumes of fresh product (100 - 1000 thousand tons), of consistent quality. It is estimated that at least 10 - 100 km2 of cultivation area is required for such production. This can only take place at sea.
At present, cultivation technology and processing technology have not yet been developed to such an extent that the large volumes can be produced. There are also still many uncertainties about the technical, economic, and ecological feasibility of large-scale cultivation in the North Sea. However, the entrepreneurs involved are optimistic. With the help of properly prioritized research, they expect to take the steps towards large-scale offshore cultivation.
At the same time, the Dutch government is looking for ways to optimally combine the use of the North Sea for energy, nature, and food objectives. Large-scale, sustainable, and safe seaweed production within wind parks is regarded as one of the promising options. The objectives of the European Green Deal also support the demand to enable large-scale seaweed cultivation in the North Sea.
The NorthSeaWeed research program combines the objectives of the business community with those of the national government. It focuses on essential, fundamental, and pre-competitive research questions concerning large-scale offshore seaweed production which cannot be tackled by the individual parties involved in the supply chain. The research program is multidisciplinary and approaches issues from five angles: (1) Production, (2) Ecosystem, (3) Technology, (4) Economy, and (5) Risks and regulations.
Invitation to participate
We are looking for companies and organizations who want to contribute to the realization of the objectives of the NorthSeaWeed research program. In exchange for in-cash and in-kind contributions to the program, partners can bring in desired research topics and thereby direct research activities. Participation is open for companies and organizations from the Netherlands and beyond. In particular existing seaweed production consortia are offered opportunities to further expand their research portfolio.
Please feel free to contact the contact person for more information if you are interested in participation.
Unfortunately, for this project we cannot respond to questions from students.
The research topics are divided in Work Packages. Each work package can contain multiple consortia in which companies, organizations and research institutions work together on a joint challenge.
How can the best return be obtained on sustainably grown seaweed? Which cultivation strategies and seaweed species can be chosen? Which diseases and pests can occur, and how can they be prevented or mitigated? Which cultivation cycles are possible? Can precision fertilization be an option in the distant (nutrient-poor) parts of the North Sea? Which parameters should be monitored when developing remote monitoring technology?
Fundamental knowledge of the (eco) physiology of the seaweed is needed to better understand processes such as nutrient uptake and symbiosis with micro-organisms, so cultivation approaches can be adapted accordingly. Breeding requires responsible molecular tools to quickly achieve better varieties.
What is the ecological impact of seaweed cultivation on the North Sea in relation to location, configuration, and total surface? Which places in the North Sea are suitable in terms of production and (positive) ecological impact? What synergy with other forms of maritime culture, fishing, and/or natural development are possible? To what extent is there actually competition?
Which construction of the anchors and cultivation unit result in the right balance between costs and risk for seaweed grower and wind farm owner? How can wear and tear be reduced much as possible, and how can technological lifespans be extended? Which materials are the most sustainable?
Technology development is required for processing large volumes of harvested product at the cultivation site and/or in the port. This involves smart cascading of various extraction processes, but also the processing of large quantities of (salt) waste water (850 liters per ton of fresh seaweed!).
Large investments are necessary in order to enable large-scale seaweed production in the North Sea. Investors need well-executed Techno Economic Assessment (TEA) studies to achieve the highest return per invested euro. Life cycle analysis (LCA) studies are needed to analyze the sustainability of the entire process - from cultivation to product development. The industrial parties are expected to be able and willing to develop their own sales markets.
WP Risk and regulation
Companies, insurance companies, and governments need well-founded risk assessment programs based on validated research and business data. How can seaweed production within wind farms be realized in a safe, profitable, and sustainable manner, with minimal risks? What are the risks within wind farms? Are there opportunities? And if so, which ones? How can seaweed installations be made ultra-light and ultra-affordable without increasing risks?