Seaweed: Scotland’s next major growth industry?

 Seagriculture EU 2024
Seaweed Scotland

Scotland’s seas are ideal for cultivation of seaweeds such as kelp. Photo: Courtesy Herald Scotland

Could seaweed go the way of whisky and renewables and become one of Scotland’s leading industries? Caroline Wilson writes in the that seaweed is fueling a jobs boom in coastal towns and the future is full of possibility.

Charles Millar, executive director of the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust (SIFT), recently said that ministers had a “unique opportunity” to establish a new and potentially valuable part of Scotland’s marine economy.

SIFT’s new research report found that Scotland’s seas are “ideal for cultivation of seaweeds such as kelp,” with interest in kelp farming “rapidly expanding” as a way of creating a sustainable and alternative livelihood.

Since 2018, applications have been lodged for seaweed farms covering more than two million square meters of Scottish coastal waters. However, there are major barriers to development of seaweed farming and new businesses in the sector can face “daunting tasks.”

The new report has cautioned that the “folly of other nations” must not be repeated, either by the over-exploitation of wild stocks or by allowing a “small handful of multi-nationals to dominate,” as had happened in the salmon farming sector. It also said Government subsidy and support will be essential if Scotland is to capitalize on the potential multi-billion pound European industry.

As well as a need for government subsidy and support, the report identified investment in and the development of processing facilities as being key, along with improved organization and co-operation between kelp farmers.

“The Scottish Government could help co-operation by providing kelp farmers with funds to create voluntary ‘producers organizations’ or ‘farmer-owned processing companies,’ which would allow farmers to strengthen their market position and overcome supply chain bottlenecks,” according to SIFT.

“What is needed,” said Mr. Millar, “is a concerted effort by both industry and government to develop the infrastructure required to make Scotland a world leader in the cultivation, processing and marketing of food, feedstuff, pharmaceutical, and other seaweed-based products.”

Fiona Houston, chief executive of Mara Seaweed, said seaweed could, in the future, be mentioned alongside other Scottish world-leading industries like whisky and renewables.

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