Norway is blessed with 101,000 kilometers of coastline where almost 500 various forms of macroalgae thrive. Interest in commercializing seaweed is increasing. In April, the Norwegian Centre for Research-based Innovation hosted by NMBU, Foods of Norway, and SINTEF Ocean and SIG Seaweed joined forces to hold a joint seminar on seaweed. More than 100 people packed the meeting room to learn and exchange knowledge.
"The overwhelming interest meant that we sadly had to turn down people who wanted to attend. We need more collaboration and fora for industry and researchers to meet, said Jorunn Skjermo," who is in charge of SIG Seaweed, a special Special Interest Group for Seaweed.
Feed as a bulk product
Skjermo confirms that they are keen to continue their collaboration with Foods of Norway.
"Closer collaboration with Foods of Norway is very important for us. The Centre has extensive knowledge on seaweed as a feed ingredient for salmon and farm animals as well as insights into processes to optimize the low base level of protein in seaweed. The potential for cultivating seaweed is considerable. In order to exploit the whole value chain, there is a need for bulk products such as feed," Skjermo says.
Collaboration across sectors
The initiative for enhanced collaboration on seaweed research between research institutions in Trondheim and Ås is appreciated both by funding partners and industry.
"Collaboration between various research disciplines in order to cover the whole seaweed value chain is in line with the Research Council of Norway (RCN) and Innovation Norway's (IN) visions and expectations from the government's strategy go develop the bioeconomy," says Steinar Bergseth special advisor (marine) biotechnology in the RCN.
Bergseth emphasizes the importance of knowledge transfer:
"Foods of Norway develops new, innovative processing techniques to convert natural bio-resources into feed ingredients. This knowledge is relevant also for other players and will promote innovation, commercialization and collaboration across different sectors, which is key," Bergseth says.
Boost and boom
In 2010, the value creation from seaweed in Norway was 1.1 billion NOK. According to an analysis by DKNVS and NTVA in 2012, the estimate by 2030 is 8 billion NOK.
"Currently some 40 licenses for cultivating macroalgae have been issued, and around 20 companies have been established. We welcome this increased interest in seaweed," says Jon Funderud, CEO of Seaweed Energy Solutions (SES) and a partner in Foods of Norway.
SES is a pioneer in seaweed cultivation and has one of the largest seaweed farms in Europe. Last year the company produced 20 tons. This year they expect to double their seaweed harvest.
"We view this initiative for closer collaboration on seaweed between Foods of Norway and SINTEF very positively. For SES, the research institutions in Trondheim and Ås are very important. Those in Trondheim have in-depth expertise on the seaweed raw material, including its chemistry, biology and the technology required for cultivation. The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Ås contributes with knowledge on the use of seaweed, both through their established expertise on bioprocessing and their extensive knowledge in animal and aquacultural sciences. A good dialogue paves the way for future research projects between Trondheim and Ås," Funderud says.