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Blueprint for Australian seaweed industry developed

AgriFutures Australia and the Australian Seaweed Institute are developing a blueprint for the emerging seaweed industry in Australia. The initial objective is to outline the industry opportunity for Australia. This will include a clear plan of action that will, at a minimum, deliver a AUD $ 10 million industry by 2025.

The second objective of the partnership is to create an industry development blueprint with appropriate milestones to grow the industry to over AUD $ 1 billion by 2040.

According to Jo Kelly, CEO of the Australian Seaweed Institute, the current global market for seaweed products such as food, cosmetics, animal feed and fertiliser is estimated at over US $ 11 billion. “And it is expected to double in value by 2025”, Ms Kelly says.

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Establish seaweed ocean farms

The Australian Seaweed Institute plans to establish seaweed ocean farms and develop high value seaweed products from native Australian seaweeds. It is currently seeking approvals and permits from the Queensland Government to establish the first Australian commercial scale seaweed farm in Moreton Bay along with a landbased seaweed nursery, research centre and processing facility.

Ideal growing conditions

Ms Kelly emphasises that Australia has ideal growing conditions and a huge export opportunity for high-value bioproducts from native Australian seaweeds. “And while there are a handful of entrepreneurs and researchers undertaking projects around Australia, there are no commercial scale seaweed ocean farms operating here”, she points out.

Ms Kelly says the single use for seaweed is exciting. “As the research into bioproducts from native Australian seaweed species is virtually non-existent, the potential for this industry to contribute to global health and nutrition while adding significant value to the Australian economy cannot be overstated”, she says.

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The current global market for seaweed products is estimated at over US $11 billion. - Photo: AgriFutures Australia
The current global market for seaweed products is estimated at over US $11 billion. - Photo: AgriFutures Australia

Blueprint developed mid 2020

According to Tom McCue, Senior Manager Emerging Industries of AgriFutures Australia, the new partners will be holding key workshops with the intent to have the blueprint developed mid 2020. “The project will engage with a wide range of experts that will deliver and project the latest innovations”, Mr McCue says.

He explains that Australian seaweed production is very small by world standards. “And the commercial focus is mainly on collection for alginate and fertiliser production”, he explains. “The intent is to update the status of the industry opportunities as there is a wide range of potential applications that need to be scoped, which may include functional ingredients, nutraceuticals, biofuels, fertilisers and animal feeds.”

Accelerate investment and development

The blueprint project will unite existing seaweed research and aquaculture efforts into an action plan to accelerate investment and development. The project forms part of AgriFutures Australia’s Emerging Industries Program. That program is focused on identifying and supporting the emergence of agricultural industries that can reach, or exceed, a AUD $ 10 million per annum threshold in the next five years.

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Asparagopsis has been shown to reduce methane emissions from cattle to almost zero when added to their feed. - Photo: CH4
Asparagopsis has been shown to reduce methane emissions from cattle to almost zero when added to their feed. - Photo: CH4

Reduce methane emissions

Managing Director Dr Patrick Hone of the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) points out there is enormous opportunity for macroalgae aquaculture and great value in developing the Blueprint.

“The opportunity for an Australian seaweed industry is really significant”, says Mr Hone. “Economic, environmental and social. Just one of the native seaweeds found off the Australian coast, Asparagopsis, has been shown to reduce methane emissions from cattle to almost zero when added to their feed. This is significant because more than 66 per cent of all agricultural greenhouse gases in Australia come from the digestion process of cattle.”

The industry is forecast to create new coastal jobs, help to protect and regenerate waterways and contribute to greenhouse gas reduction.

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