Scaling up Seaweed Farming
The underwater forests of the ocean, seaweed has the potential to provide a clean and permanent route for carbon dioxide removal into the ocean sink. Biome Algae is at the forefront of nature-based research and development for seaweed in the UK. An innovative venture in their second year of seaweed farming, Biome works with universities and research institutes to test the best approach for carbon removal with seaweed. The project is also aligned with industry to create bio-packaging and material, and they are leading on the creation of bio-alternatives to fuel, cattle feed and fertiliser - reducing both carbon and methane emissions.
Using real-time remote monitoring, Biome combines seaweed harvesting and sinking to deliver benefits to climate, biodiversity and people. Seaweed farming is still an emerging UK and global industry. This means that the science about how much carbon can be removed and stored, as well as for how long, is evolving. But we know this ecosystem has huge potential. Seaweed can draw down 6x the amount of carbon compared to land plants & trees, and it grows faster too. We also know that seaweed can reduce emissions from farming, fossil fuels, materials and can help us adapt to climate change.
As the project learns more about carbon removal and emissions reduction with seaweed, this information will be shared with other actors around the world, helping to create certified methodologies and maximise the potential positive impact of seaweed.
Why This Project?
We believe in supporting innovation to scale nature-based solutions across the globe, not only to avert the climate crisis but also to regenerate biodiversity and human wellbeing. The science has shown that seaweed farming has the potential to do all three, including the opportunity to remove carbon quickly and cleanly from the atmosphere. Investment is needed to improve our knowledge on the best way to farm seaweed and store carbon permanently in ocean sediment and deep-sea. By supporting cutting-edge projects like Biome Algae, we can help scale-up the positive impact of seaweed farming in the UK and across the globe.
Great for Earth
Seaweed farming needs no land, fertiliser, freshwater, or feed & it does not produce waste. This makes it an incredibly clean and efficient way to remove carbon, increase biodiversity and create sustainable products for people. At Biome’s farm, seaweed fronds grow both horizontally and vertically creating rich shelter and nursery grounds for young fish, shellfish and invertebrates. Seaweed farms also offer a resting ground for migratory birds, including environmentally important & endangered species. Many organisms make the seaweed their home, as it provides an important food source. When benthic organisms like crabs and whelks eat the seaweed, carbon is transferred into the exoskeletons and shells and can become long-term carbon sinks when they are discarded.
Seaweed plays a critical role in controlling water quality. For example, when seaweed is farmed next to shellfish farms or in areas with high nutrient loading from agriculture, seaweed absorbs nutrients from the waste produced - this is called bioremediation. Seaweed also helps us adapt to climate change, including the control of water pH and oxygen supply, locally reducing the effects of coral-killing ocean acidification and de-oxygenation. Seaweed forests can even reduce the impact of storms by physically protecting shorelines.
Seaweed is multifaceted, and provides many benefits to counteract environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. This includes impacts on land, as seaweed can be an alternative to synthetic fertilisers, helping to improve soil quality and reduce the carbon emissions from agriculture. Biome Algae focuses specifically on native species that grow naturally in Europe, ensuring that the farm also supports the biodiversity of seaweed in the long-term.
Positive for People
Biome Algae is regenerating the coastal economy in the UK South West through employment, training and business support. Seaweed holds many answers for the future of coastal communities, who have in the past been left behind by urbanisation and depopulation. As well as creating a new market with sustainable job opportunities, Biome is supporting eco-tourism to their seaweed farms. The trips educate all generations on the importance and benefits of sustainable and regenerative seaweed farming. Building on this, the project will provide information boards to the local community to support the tourism industry, promote other traditional and sustainable local businesses and actively participate in community-led initiatives.
Research and education is central to Biome’s work, and they strongly believe in supporting local educators and engaging with students. They aim to instil an appreciation for the marine environment, its sustainable use & the solutions it presents for future generations. As well as local benefits, seaweed can have a far-reaching impact on society.
Seaweed farming can help us to create a more sustainable, circular economy. This is because seaweed can be integrated into many products and manufacturing processes, including: Bio-textiles to replace plastic for shoes and clothing; Bio-plastic packaging to replace take out cartons, sachets, food pouches and single use plastic film; Cattle feed to improve digestive health and reduce methane emissions; Fertilisers which producers significantly less carbon than chemical fertilisers; and Biostimulants to naturally encourage growth of land-based crops.
How Will it Work?
In October 2021, the project's second season, 14km of seeded line were deployed in the ocean and have now produced between 60 and almost 100 tonnes of seaweed. Chosen from the thousands of red, green and brown seaweed species growing across Europe, the project grows native seaweed including kelp and maintains their hatcheries in Europe.
The seaweed is usually harvested in April and May each year, however, this year a portion will remain in the ocean to be sunk at the end of the Summer. The project will follow research and guidelines to sink the seaweed ethically and correctly, and the final approach will be designed with a leading UK University.
The project will identify the best time, location and conditions for sinking, and will monitor the process, using Remotely Operated Underwater vehicles (ROV’s) where appropriate. Leaving the seaweed longer in the ocean before sinking may be an opportunity to provide food, nursery grounds and shelter for more biodiversity and commercial crab and fish species, as well as to then store carbon in the long-term.
In October 2022, five times the volume of seaweed will be grown to begin scaling up the exciting work of Biome Algae toward producing 12,000 Tonnes by 2030.