On 1 April 2021, a shipment of 202lbs of Invasive Sargassum Seaweed was shipped to Finland from the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Analytical Services. Here you can read about it in the local news in Antigua!
On the receiving end? The team here at Origin by Ocean.
Invasive Sargassum Seaweed has caused problems in the Caribbean region for a number of years.
This is due to the difficulty of managing the volume of the seaweed both in the ocean and washing up on shores.
Rafts of seaweed are vast and deep and have an impact on many areas such as fishing, marine health, and tourism. The impact of Sargassum in the Carribean region is dificult to comprehend. However despite of many efforts made in this region to reduce both the amount and the impact of Sargassum, the size and impact of the problem continues to grow.
The purpose of the shipment reaching us is for an investigation into how we can utilize Sargassum Seaweed as an alternative feedstock for our biorefinery process.
A New Biorefinery Process
This shipment is part of the first phase of a project we currently have in development.
We are looking to design a new biorefinery process called Nauvu®.
Our novel biorefinery process wil extract biomolecules from the seaweed and algae stock that can then be used in a number of different industries. This includes food, cosmetics, and domestic detergent – all using marine biomass, as the starting point.
This first shipment is going to form part of the initial reference trials of the Nauvu® process.
It will compare the use of Sargassum against the benchmark feedstock: Bladderwrack Seaweed.
The Nauvu® Process Explained
To us the word “Nauvu” represents fairness towards nature and our peers while operating in a way that is responsible and committed to sustainability.
You can see a step-by-step explanation here of the process using bladderwrack as feedstock.
Our process includes is designed to create a cycle of nutrients, from land to sea and sea to land on an industrial scale.
In the Nauvu® refining process, we take the wet tons of blue green algae and Bladderwrack and producing dry tons of biomolecule products.
The alge is refined into valuable products that are used in any number of things from emulsifying agents for non-dairy milk to medicines and animal feed.
The other benefit is to the ocean which is purified as a result of using excess seaweed and algae.
What is Sargassum Seaweed?
Sargassum is a species of brown seaweed that is generally found on the coast of the British Isles, Mainland Europe, and North America.
It traditionally moves around from its beginnings in the Gulf of Mexico, into the North Atlantic Ocean, and then onto the Sargasso Sea.
The seaweed forms a thick layer that covers the ocean surface and provides food and breeding ground for marine life.
The Problems Caused By Invasive Sargassum Seaweed
Iris Monnereau, a Barbados-based fisheries expert with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said that “You see meters high of Sargassum piled up on shore but you’re also seeing it in the ocean…sargassum mats can be up to seven meters deep.”
As it is an invasive seaweed, it is really difficult to control and tends to take over the areas in which it washes up.
Efforts to clean it or eradicate it completely has proved to be almost impossible.
Sargassum has swamped coastlines from Tobago to Anguilla. Clean-up attempts have only seen the seaweed come back in vast amounts.
Both the relentlessness and overall volume of Sargassum have caused numerous problems to these areas over the last decade.
Why use Sargassum Seaweed as Biomass?
There are so many benefits to harvesting Sargassum Seaweed to use as Biomass for alternative feedstock.
Some examples of the benefits are:
- There is so much of it and it grows quickly. The rate at which Sargassum regenerates makes it the perfect biomass for use in feedstock. Communities have seen their efforts in cleaning up washed-up Sargassum have been unsuccessful due to the sheer amounts of seaweed on the shores.
- It can affect the fishing industry. Fishermen have stated that Sargassum affects catches. The depth of the Sargassum seaweed belt creates barriers that can not be penetrated by any smaller or lager fish.
- The turtle population is affected. The nesting sites turtles used have been blocked or damaged by the sargassum itself and the consequences of removal work. Not only that but turtles in the ocean can become tangled in the seaweed due to the size of the rafts it grows in.
- It is unattractive which can affect tourism. The sargassum washes up on the beaches to form a brown carpet over the otherwise white sand. This can have a devastating effect on tourism due to negative feedback on sites like TripAdvisor and resorts closing altogether.
- It’s expensive to try and clean up. The cost of manpower and machinery in trying to remove the sargassum is expensive and often ineffective.
We are excited to explore how Sargassum performes as an alternative feedstock in our Nauvu® biorefinery process.
We will continue to explore and study to find out it can be used as biomass for food, medicinal use, and animal feedstock. If we succeed this will have incredible benefits to cleaning our oceans in a kind and responsible way.
Not only this, but it will create a feedstock that is sustainable and helps us in our mission to create an algae-based business ecosystem that is commercially viable.
We are absolutely thrilled about our collaboration with the Department of Analytical Services in Antigua & Barbuda. The UNOPS GIC both in Lund, Sweden and in Antigua & Barbuda have made this co-operation possible. We, as a startup, are happy to be able to enjoy the synergy effects of the multiple locations that the UNOPS GIC’s can offer.
In Antigua, the GIC is a collaboration between UNOPS and the Antigua and Barbuda Science Innovation Park (ABSIP).
Now we are prepairing a second, even larger batch of sargassum, to be shipped. This next shipment will be will be used to start the initial trials of how we can use sargassum going forward.
We are so excited by the opportunities these studies bring.
They allow us to investigate and research how this invasive sargassum seaweed can be used as an alternative feedstock alongside blue-green algae and Bladderwrack.
We can’t wait to get started!