Promising seaweed biorefinery

Seaweed has every possible feature to become one of the essential raw materials of the Biobased Economy. Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research is developing the techniques for optimal conversion of this aquatic biomass into building blocks for several different biobased products.

Major advantages of seaweed

Compared to other vegetable biomass species, seaweed has some major advantages. Seaweed does not take costly agricultural land or fresh water, as the plant grows in the sea. Another argument in its favour is that seaweed can remove contaminants from water and thereby can be applied for bioremediation. Moreover, thanks to its unique composition, seaweed is ideally suited for biorefining. These fast-growing macro algae are rich in high-quality ingredients, such as hydrocolloids, sugars and proteins.

Food, feed, plastics and biofuel

Seaweeds are classified into three main groups based on pigmentation: brown, red and green. Each group has its own specific characteristics. For economic and technical feasibility studies each group should be looked at separately. Food & Biobased Research has expertise in seaweed biorefinery (on lab scale as well as small pilot scale) for optimal use of the seaweed biomass for food, feed, chemicals, materials and fuels.  By distinguishing between easily extractable sugars and more recalcitrant structures like alginate, the seaweed biomass can be fully used. With this multi-product and multi-step approach, seaweed has huge potential as a new feedstock for the Biobased Economy.

Cost-effective and sustainable

Because of the options for using seaweed in multi-product biorefining while at the same time increasing its yield, cost-effective cultivation is now within the reach of companies. Multi-product biorefining will also generate sustainability profit, since no valuable components will remain unused. This way, seaweed might become a cornerstone of the Biobased Economy.