Sustainably-farmed seaweed provides numerous environmental, economic and societal benefits.
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Seaweed farming does not require cleared land which means that deforestation is not necessary, unlike many other agricultural products.
Seaweed sequesters carbon dioxide from the oceans which reduces atmospheric carbon and ocean acidification. If 9% of the ocean was dedicated to seaweed farming, that could remove 53 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.
Seaweed absorbs nitrogen from the oceans which also reduces ocean acidification.
Around 20 tons of nitrogen is absorbed per square kilometre of seaweed.
Seaweed does not require fertiliser or pesticide unlike many other agricultural practices.
Seaweed farms protect the seabed from commercial fishing and other harmful practices as it creates a marine sanctuary for sea life.
Seaweed can be refined and processed to create bio-packaging which will replace harmful plastic products.
For every ton of plastic replaced by bio-packaging, approximately 1.9 tons of carbon dioxide is prevented from entering the atmosphere.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIETAL BENEFITS
Seaweed farming will help to solve the growing problem of global food insecurity.
By increasing the growth of seaweed farming up to 14% per year would generate 500 million tons dry weight by 2050, adding about 10% to the world’s present supply of food.
Seaweed is a sustainable source of feed for livestock.
This decreases the demand for land based agriculture which can encourage deforestation and other environmental problems.
Seaweed does not require freshwater to grow.
This means that seaweed farming does not contribute to the global freshwater shortages unlike land-based agriculture.
Seaweed farming will create jobs in many coastal communities and developing countries.
Current estimates predict that by 2050 the seaweed farming industry could create up to 100 million jobs, which is roughly the number currently employed in marine capture fisheries.
Seaweed is incredibly nutritious being low in fat and rich in proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and essential micronutrients, particularly antioxidants.
Currently the EU imports 70% of protein-rich foods. This "protein gap" can be partially solved by seaweed food products.
By 2054, algae/seaweed products are predicted to provide up to 18% of the global alternative protein market.
Seaweed is rich in vitamins such as vitamins A and C. It is also rich in potassium, iron, calcium, iodine and magnesium, which are minerals concentrated in seawater. Seaweed is also one of the few vegetable sources of vitamin B-12
Seaweeds are extensively used in traditional medicine with recognised antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.
Several compounds isolated from seaweed have shown anticancer properties, while others possess antidiabetic, anti-hypertensive and hepatoprotective (liver) properties.