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Scottish minister and UK seaweed innovators join in 24-hour algae odyssey

Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon, pictured speaking at Aquaculture UK earlier this month, will deliver a keynote speech during the 24-hour Seaweed Around the Clock conference. Photo: FFE.
Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon, pictured speaking at Aquaculture UK earlier this month, will deliver a keynote speech during the 24-hour Seaweed Around the Clock conference. Photo: FFE.

Mairi Gougeon, the Scottish Government’s aquaculture-supporting Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, will next week join speakers from Scotland and many other countries during a 24-hour online exploration of the potential of seaweed farming that begins in Australia and travels around the globe.

The free Seaweed Around the Clock conference, which aims to raise awareness, showcase innovations and fund regenerative seaweed farming, starts in New Zealand at 2pm (3am BST) on Thursday, June 2.

The question “What are the next steps in financing seaweed companies?” is debated at 10am BST, and at noon Adam Costello, chief executive of Inland Sea, a small Cheshire-based company that sells clothing made from a German-produced fibre containing seaweed, takes part in a discussion about how seaweed can contribute to making the fashion industry cleaner.

Ayça Dündar is co-founder of SoluBlue UK. Photo: SoluBlue.
Ayça Dündar is co-founder of SoluBlue UK. Photo: SoluBlue.

Alternative to plastic

At 1pm BST a section titled “Developing seaweed polymers as a real alternative for food packaging” will hear from Ayça Dündar, co-founder of Cambridge-based SoluBlue UK, which was awarded £430,000 when it won the Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge in 2020.

SoluBlue has developed a seaweed-based sustainable alternative to plastic and bioplastic food packaging, which extends shelf-life and reduces food waste. The company’s packaging looks and feels like plastic but is breathable and hydrophilic.

It stops food from rotting by absorbing excess moisture so that packaged food gradually dries instead, meaning many everyday foods stay fresh for more than 50% longer. Food types, including cheese and fruit, were even found to stay fresh and safe for consumption after two years in SoluBlue’s packaging.

The material is bio digestible, making it safe for marine life. It is also home compostable, biodegrading as quickly as the food it contains, claims the company.

Kyla Orr: The Kelp Crofting co-founder will take part in a debate about seaweed's potential for carbon capture and storage. Photo: LinkedIn.
Kyla Orr: The Kelp Crofting co-founder will take part in a debate about seaweed's potential for carbon capture and storage. Photo: LinkedIn.

A food revolution

Mairi Gougeon, who recently opened the Aquaculture UK trade show in Aviemore, will introduce a section called “Seaweed: the driver of the industrial food revolution” at 2pm BST. The minister’s speech will be followed by a debate including Trond Helgerud, seaweed and clean label R&D leader for Dupont Nutrition Norge AS, and Fiona Houston, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Mara Seaweed.

A section titled “Seaweed farms & carbon: reality or illusion?” (10pm UK) includes a debate featuring Dr Kyla Orr, scientific director and co-founder of Skye’s Kelp Crofting, along with Jean-Baptiste Thomas of KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, and Mar Fernandez-Mendez, chief science officer of Seafields.

The company has developed a method of upwelling nutrients that will feed the brown seaweed, Sargassum, in hyperscale farms in the middle of the South Atlantic.

The majority of the seaweed will be harvested, processed, baled and then sunk to over 4,000 metres of depth, where it and its embodied carbon will remain for thousands of years.

Kendra MacDonald will speak about developing a new social economic model for fishermen and local communities. Photo: LinkedIn.
Kendra MacDonald will speak about developing a new social economic model for fishermen and local communities. Photo: LinkedIn.

Social economic model

Kendra MacDonald, chief executive of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, will give a keynote speech on the subject of developing a new social economic model for fishermen and local communities (8pm BST; 3pm Atlantic Canada) and British Columbia’s agriculture and food minister Lana Popham, will deliver the keynote speech in a chapter on Embracing indigenous wisdom: how can working with indigenous communities help the seaweed industry? (1am BST; 5pm BC).

The section includes a video tour of a seaweed farm run by BC’s Cascadia Seaweed, which has partnerships with six First Nations.

Seaweed Around the Clock is organised by Seaweed First, a French not-for-profit that uses data-driven insights to shift the world towards a seaweed economy.

The full programme can be downloaded here.