Belgian Scientists Look to Mass Algae Farming

Belgian Algae Farming

A project from Ghent University called UNITED 2020 is researching large-scale algae farming as a strategic food solution for the future.

Isabel da Silva reports for Euronews that a pioneering algae farming pilot project is currently going on at an offshore wind park 50 kilometers off Belgium’s nutrient-rich North Sea coast. The goal is to research the potential of mass farming of seaweed for human and animal consumption.

According to Jessica Knoop, a postdoctoral fellow at the Ghent University Phycology Research Lab, which is involved in the study, a lot more effort and money need to go into the evolving industry.

“To scale up or help this industry evolve (we need) to make legislation easier, for example, acknowledging seaweed as a food product. Also, funding-wise, the European sector still needs some research so that we can grow local species in our natural environment,” she told Euronews.

The project, called UNITED 2020, has teams in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Greece.

Wind farm contractors and other industrial businesses are also interested in the future commercial potential of the industry and new technological developments could soon come around too, says Olivier de Clerck, head of Ghent University Phycology Research Lab. “If we grow seaweed 50km offshore, you may want to think about how you can monitor its growth. So there are now small start-ups building marine robots.”

“There are a lot of start-ups and research projects that look into biorefineries for getting compounds out of seaweeds that we really need for various applications,” he said, “like food, animal feed, cosmetics, or pharmaceuticals.”

Wind farms are potential partners as well, the researchers have found, because in the areas surrounding these platforms, no fishing or shipping is allowed.

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