Ailsa McLellan, who owns 58°N Scottish Seaweed Ltd as well as running Okran Oysters with her husband, Joe, has been awarded £4,332 to research the viability of growing seaweed for commercial use in the Highlands.
She said: “There is increasing demand for seaweed for a multitude of applications including fertilisers, animal and human foods, and biofuels.
"Producing farmed seaweed can help to avoid the over exploitation of wild seaweed beds, whilst providing sustainable employment opportunities. This trial aims to show that it is possible, desirable and profitable for rural coastal communities in North West Scotland to farm seaweed.
"I am very grateful to the European Marine and Fisheries Fund and Highland & Moray FLAG for this funding as without their support the project would not have been able to go ahead.”
Deployed before Christmas
McLellan has already been granted permission to grow seaweed on ropes on the 440m² test site on Loch Kanaird, a couple of miles north of Ullapool, and is now buying the ropes, floats and chains required for the farm.
"We hope to get it deployed before Christmas, weather dependent," said McLellan. "We will be trying Alaria esculenta (winged kelp) and or Saccharina latissima (sugar kelp), depending on what spawning stock can be found in the area.
"I wanted to do this test site to prove that its viable and profitable for people to farm seaweed up here; there are so many applications for seaweed and I do not want to see the increasing demand resulting in the decimation of wild beds."
Cooperative seaweed farms
McLellan said she would like to see large cooperative seaweed farms, with local fishermen involved from the outset to try to ameliorate any competition for space, and to allow them to diversify for some of the time if they wanted to. "I would also like to see some sort of shore-based drying / processing facility so that we are not having to sell and transport tonnes of wet seaweed," she added.
The Highland & Moray FLAG have approved seven applications to date with funding of £338,000 committed toward a range of projects relating to harbour infrastructure improvements and small business grants.
Sarah Lamb, Highland & Moray FLAG development officer, said: “The FLAG have been active for over a year now and have committed just over a third of their £1 million pound budget. The FLAG have approved some fantastic projects so far and it’s important we keep this momentum going so I encourage anyone with a project idea to get in touch to discuss.”
The deadline for expressions of interest for the next round of FLAG funding is December 15.