Aquatic food systems

There are several ways that marine systems could be better exploited in the fight for global hunger relief. Using the food system approach (FSA), we hope to develop a sustainable polyculture of seaweed, shrimp and tilapia. This is the first step towards a Global Yield Gap Assessment for the potential contribution of seaweed to global food security.


Ending world hunger is an important goal of the United Nations' SDG-2. This goal aims to ensure that everyone has access to sufficient nutritious food by 2030. However, the oceans and seas of the world are hardly involved in this. Furthermore, there is not enough work focused on seaweed and algae, which form the foundation of the food chain. While the broader objective of this Knowledge Base project is to develop interdisciplinary knowledge regarding the sustainable production of high-quality food and raw materials from the sea and thus contribute to global food security, in this research we focus on the potential of seaweed and aquaculture.

Increasing the commercial production of seaweed will result in a direct contribution to food security (as a food or food component) or indirectly by creating employment and by enabling the relocation of food production to the sea, freeing up land for food. In this project, we will identify and describe the potential production of seaweed and its spatial distribution.

Due to food processing losses, vulnerability to disease, habitat loss and polluted wastewater, modern aquaculture based on farmed carnivorous and omnivorous fish and crustaceans is largely unsustainable and makes little net contribution to real food security. The cultivation of seaweed offers many prospects for the sustainability of aquaculture. In combination with fish or shrimp (IMTA: Integrated Multi Trophic Aquaculture), seaweed cultivation increases yields through improved water quality and reduced vulnerability to diseases. Furthermore, seaweed does not need expensive supplementary feeding, does not use scarce fresh water, and at the same time removes polluting nutrients from the water.

The aim of this research is to provide knowledge on how to develop seaweed cultivation sustainably, whether or not in combination with the cultivation of other species (IMTA), taking into account what the environment can handle. Our project will help define sustainable and resilient development goals towards which the food systems of vulnerable deltas can be transformed for sustainability and resilience.The FSA systems approach will also provide a picture of the processes and actors along the entire value chain. This will therefore also show how a successful transformation can best be achieved.

Ultimately, the results of some 20 sub-studies that focus on various issues and aspects of the value chain will be integrated to model the food potential of seaweed as a first step towards a Global Yield Gap Assessment.