Seaweed from Beaches can Power Hotels

Brown seaweed

Brown seaweed is a grave concern for an economy that relies on tourism and the Caribbean’s famously clear waters.

Naama Barak writes in about businessman and entrepreneur Ygdal Ach. While he was beginning a vacation with his family in the Dominican Republic, they came across a disturbing sight — huge amounts of smelly brown seaweed scattered all over the shoreline they were hoping to enjoy.

Mr. Ach is the founder and CEO of Y.A. Maof, an Israeli company that works on environmental and waste disposal projects. “We were all very disappointed with the situation and I tried to understand what was going on there,” he says.

As such, when he went out on his morning run, he asked the resort employees who were busy shoveling the seaweed off the beach what they do with it. He was aghast to learn that the seaweed was being taken to a local dumpster where it was left to dry before being burned. So, he decided to investigate the situation further. “I took a bag and filled it with seaweed and I brought it back to Israel to some test labs.”

Biogas from algae

Mr. Ach and his team concluded that combining the algae with organic waste in a biogas facility could enable energy generation.

He recruited a resorts hospitality corporation and an energy group to set up an experimental project. Recognizing it also as an educational and community engagement opportunity, he engaged Scholas and Pope Francis’ international educational initiative to accompany the project.

Currently, the project is in financial review and Mr. Ach estimates that the biogas facility will be ready in two years’ time.

The plan is to collect the brown algae and transport it to the facility, where it will be combined with organic home waste. The methane gas created in the biogas facility will be transported to a biological generator and from there to the power grid, where it will serve the local hotel industry.

Impact investing

“The whole concept that we’ve created here is building a platform for impact investing,” Mr. Ach explains. “It’s a chain that begins with collecting seaweed and ends with three products: electricity, compost and fertilizer.”

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