Potential of the Chilean seaweed sector : Sustainable large scale production opportunities and beneficial effects of local seaweed varieties

Muizelaar, Wouter; Jung, Gerbrand


Worldwide over 10.000 species of seaweed (macroalgae) exist which are often divided into three groups; green seaweeds (Chlorophyta), red seaweeds (Rhodophyta) and brown seaweeds (Phaeophyta). High abundance of seaweeds can be found along coast lines with a hard substrate (i.e. rocky shores) to which they can attach, while some free floating species exist. In 2015 the global seaweed production was 30.4 million with an estimated worth of more than 6 billion USD, of which 29.4 million tonnes derived from aquaculture production and 1.1. million tonnes from wild harvest. Seaweeds are rich in all kinds of bioactive compounds, minerals and specific carbohydrates and are commonly used in the nutraceutical,pharmaceutical and biorefinery industries Apart from being consumed as a food product, the largest application of seaweeds in the food industry is the extraction of specific carbohydrates to be used in a widerange of food products. The most important carbohydrates extracted from More recently the use of seaweedsas feed supplements for livestock has (re-)emerged as a research interest due to recent results, and markets are being developed. In addition, the use of seaweeds and extracts there off as a biostimulant for crop production under both stressed and normal condition are promising. Using seaweeds for all kinds of purposes, from food and feed to materials, is a long standing tradition in Chile. The current market revolves mainly around the harvest of large amounts of seaweed biomass from natural seaweed beds, which are exported directly after drying or after undergoing initial processing steps.Chile ranks as the 6th largest seaweed producing country worldwide and largest when only considering wild harvest from natural beds, about 97% of the total production is wild harvested seaweed while the other 3%originates from aquaculture activities. While in recent years a lot of research has been performed on the aquaculture of different seaweed species, this practice is not yet commonly established. Multiple stakeholders of local fisherman communities, indigenous communities, research institutes and national authorities expressed a clear positive interest in collaboration with Dutch counterparts. For Dutch companies there are two main opportunities to collaborate with Chile in the seaweed sector. Dutch seaweed producing companies can bring activities, technology and knowhow to Chile and combine with the local knowhow to start up seaweed aquaculture. Secondly, Dutch companies active in processing and livestock feed can assist on how to best apply local seaweed products in for example animal diets for the South and or North American market. Key infrastructure components for scaling up are already in place dueto other aquaculture activities. The seaweed sector could be complimentary and can be an interesting partner for both the salmon and dairy sector which are searching for innovations.Current aquaculture related legislation in Chile can be a challenge for starting new seaweed related activities.These legislations are focused on protecting the environment and new activities should not have negative effects compared to the reference level. A potential opportunity is to collaborate with indigenous communities in Chile, which have more sovereignty in the exploitation of certain areas of land and sea that they can claim. This can serve as a spin-off point for further development. The embassy of the Netherlands in Chile has a central role and can offer assistance to connect the Chilean and Dutch ambitions. Seaweeds with its many different applications fits within the vision on the protein shift of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality as an alternative marine resource. Simultaneously, the embassy can connect and facilitate in conversations with the Chilean authorities, local markets and knowledge institutes.This helps the Dutch companies in developing long term relationships and understand the regulations and requirements from a Chilean perspective