Australian Company Commercializing Asparagopsis Seaweed

algaeurope.org   Women of Algae
Asparagopsis Seaweed

Asparagopsis seaweed growing in Sea Forest’s marine farm. Credit: i4Connect

Shan Goodwin reports in QueenslandCountryLife .com.au that, in the Australian island state of Tasmania, seaweed producer Sea Forest is billing itself as the world’s first commercial producer of Asparagopsis seaweed feed supplements. (Yes, that’s the seaweed demonstrating a massive reduction in livestock methane emissions.) The company has a hatchery that is Australia’s largest marine lease growing the strain, and a processing plant that converts it into user-friendly products that reduce carbon emissions.

Asparagopsis is endemic to Australian and New Zealand waters, and its exploding popularity as a key component of the livestock methane mitigation challenge is generating a whole new aquaculture industry from scratch. 

Investment dollars are flowing into Sea Forest. The latest is a Federal Government co-investment of $675,000, following the company’s $50 million investment to increase its production.

The company raised $5m in early 2020 and raised a further $34 million from investors in April 2021. Sea Forests’ capital value today is approximately $55 million, with the first commercial supply of Asparagopsis scheduled to begin in early 2022. 

A capital-raising bid by Sea Forest to expand marine farming, harvesting, and processing operations at its 1,800-hectare sea lease was oversubscribed, in a sign of investor faith.

“From our stage one farm we plan to produce 7,000 tons a year of seaweed for livestock, initially cutting carbon emissions from livestock by about 400,000 tons per year,” said Sea Forest chief executive officer Sam Elsom. “Governments and the private sector are recognizing the important impact methane has on global emissions and are now taking action to reduce its effects through technology investment and purchase of products.”

The world seaweed market is currently worth $11 billion, and the Australian Seaweed Institute projects the Australian market to be worth $100 million in 2025 and $1.5 billion by 2040.

Sea Forest and the development of cultivated Asparagopsis had its genesis in 2006 in research by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), followed by the additional research of Professor Rocky de Nys at James Cook University. The research identified the properties of the Asparagopsis for methane abatement. The science was published and peer reviewed, but it was not understood how to take this laboratory achievement to large-scale cultivation. This was the hurdle that Sea Forest was created to jump, using the IP held by CSIRO. 

In the meantime, interest in the company and its technology is growing internationally, especially in places like the United States and The Netherlands. Both have large cattle populations and are under pressure to address the impact these are having on their countries’ greenhouse gas emissions overall.

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