1. Seaweed fights climate change.
As seaweed grows, it removes carbon from the the atmosphere. Like all plants, seaweeds harness sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow. To maintain their rapid growth rates, seaweeds must pull a lot of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, effectively re-purposing our carbon emissions into their tissues. Along the way, a portion of the carbon seaweeds store ends up buried in marine sediments or stored in the deep ocean, effectively sequestering that carbon. (1,2)
2. We shouldn’t cut down trees for packaging, we should leave them in the ground.
Not many people realize that seaweed grows much faster than trees. Seaweeds’ rapid growth rates are yet another reason they are such a suitable crop for replacing plastic. Of all the seaweeds, the fastest growers by far are the kelps, some of which can grow over a foot a day. (3) Other commonly farmed seaweeds, like Eucheuma and Gracilaria, are able to double their biomass about every month. (4)
“Seaweed is farmed without environmentally damaging chemicals.”
3. Seaweed contributes to a healthy ocean.
Seaweed naturally combats ocean acidification, a symptom of climate change. As our carbon emissions dissolve into the ocean, seawater becomes more acidic. Today, the oceans are acidifying faster than ever before, making it difficult for marine animals to adapt. As they grow, seaweeds absorb dissolved carbon dioxide, creating safe pockets in the ocean where acidification’s full effects are muted. Seaweed also makes our ocean healthier by absorbing excess nutrients releasing oxygen. The nutrient-dense fertilizers we use on land are creating low-oxygen zones along the world’s coastlines. By growing seaweed along the coast, we can remove the excess nutrients and create oxygen-rich refuges where they’re needed most.
4. Seaweed creates healthy soil.
Unlike other ingredients commonly used in biodegradable products, seaweed is a natural soil-enhancing additive. (5) In fact, seaweed has been used to amend soils and promote plant growth for centuries. In addition to supplying plants with essential, scarce nutrients, seaweed extracts can help stimulate root development, enhance plant resistance to drought, and protect plants from common agricultural pests.
5. Seaweed farming doesn’t need land, fertilizer, or water.
Seaweed doesn’t need land to grow. Land is a scarce resource on our blue planet, yet over ⅓ of the world’s land is used for agriculture alone. (7) While many land-grown crops require large agricultural fields to grow, seaweeds can be grown in the open ocean where the water column is otherwise vacant. Seaweed is farmed without environmentally damaging chemicals. The fertilizers we use to grow crops and nurture our lawns create oxygen-depleted zones in coastal waters. By growing seaweeds in the open ocean, seaweed farmers are able to provide their seaweeds with ideal growing conditions without fertilizers or other toxic chemicals. Seaweed farming does not use freshwater. Instead of putting additional strain on the world’s diminishing supply of freshwater, seaweed thrives in our planet’s abundant saltwater.
6. We have lots of untapped ocean to grow seaweed efficiently.
By growing vertically from the ocean’s surface, seaweed takes up little space. Since seaweeds lack roots, most commercially important seaweeds can be grown off of longlines at the ocean’s surface much like clothes on a clothesline. This allows seaweeds to be cultivated in the ocean at high densities. Since seaweed is farmed from the ocean’s surface, it can grow coastally and off shore. According to a recent study, (8) over 18 million square miles of the world’s oceans are suitable for seaweed farming - an area over 6-times the size of Australia, most of which is currently unused.
7. Seaweed farming is virtually zero-waste.
All parts of seaweed are useful. Unlike common crops, which are usually cultivated for us to use just a portion of the plant, sequential processing allows all of a seaweed’s biomass to be used as either food, a component of new biomaterials (like LOLIWARE’s new SEA Technnology™), or an ingredient in new products. (9) The sequential processing method first extracts, seaweed’s unique high-value molecules for specialized uses, such as in biofuels. Then, seaweed’s remaining components can be used to generate protein concentrates that are useful to the agricultural industry, eliminating virtually all waste from the process.
8. Supporting seaweed-based products supports women.
The seaweed aquaculture industry is led by women. In most developing countries, seaweed aquaculture is led by women, with women taking on a diversity of roles in the industry. In Africa and Asia in particular, seaweed farming has allowed women to contribute to household income, raising their status in their communities. (10,11)
9. Supporting seaweed helps coastal economies.
Starting a seaweed farm is relatively inexpensive. Since seaweed farming does not require costly, specialized equipment or the purchase of land, the cost to start a seaweed farm in developing countries is low compared to land-based agriculture. (12) This makes seaweed farming an accessible way for coastal economies to generate income and be a part of the global market.
1. Duarte, C.M. et al. 2017. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2017.00100
2. Duarte, C.M. et al. 2021. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-021-00773-9#article-info
3. Navarrete, I.G. et al. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2021.110747
4. Kasim, M. et al. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1088/1755-1315/925/1/012018
5. Duarte, C.M. et al. 2017. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2017.00100
6. Duarte, C.M. et al. 2021. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-021-00773-9#article-info
7. FAO. 2020. https://www.fao.org/sustainability/news/detail/en/c/1274219/#:~:text=Global%20trends,and%20pastures
8. Froehlich, H.W. et al. 2019. https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30886-3
9. Duarte, C.M. et al. 2017. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2017.00100
10. Duarte, C.M. et al. 2021. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-021-00773-9#article-info
11. Msuya, F.E. and A.Q. Hurtado. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09670262.2017.1357084
12. Duarte, C.M. et al. 2021. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-021-00773-9#article-info