SAMS seaweed nursery manager Callum O'Connell is among the association's macro-algae experts. Photo: SAMS.

Seaweed farming R&D earns award for SAMS Enterprise

Research and development into the UK’s fledgling seaweed farming industry has won gold for SAMS Enterprise at the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) Highlands and Islands Awards.

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SAMS Enterprise, the commercial arm of the Oban-based Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), won the Ocean Winds Award for Excellence in Marine Innovation and Growing the Blue Economy.

The company recently secured a joint investment of £150,000 by SAMS and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to upgrade its seaweed nursery. The new facility will enable innovative seeding techniques and technologies to catalyse growth of the UK seaweed sector, while offering the highest levels of biosecurity and environmental sustainability.

SAMS is also at the forefront of research into seaweed cultivation, operating a seaweed farm and leading international research projects relating to seaweed farming.

World-leading researchers

Accepting the award at a virtual ceremony, SAMS Enterprise chief Mike Spain said: “At SAMS we are fortunate to have a concentration of world-leading macro-algae researchers.

“This expertise has been the driver behind the science of our innovation in developing seeded material to support Scotland’s growing farmed seaweed industry. I am very lucky to have a fantastic team who have led the conversion of the innovative science into practical deliverable products grown in our state-of-the-art seaweed nursery.”

Globally the seaweed industry is worth more than £11 billion per year, but the full business potential has not yet been realised within the UK.

Algae library

Working with SAMS Enterprise offers businesses direct access to research in seaweed reproduction and cultivation being undertaken on site by SAMS. It also provides access to other resources, such as the globally accessed culture library - the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa, or CCAP - in which reproductive material can be held for customer supply.

The importance of the seaweed sector to the Highlands and Islands region has been highlighted in recent reports by Argyll and Bute Council, Crown Estate Scotland and Marine Scotland and through rapid growth of the Scottish Seaweed Industry Association.

SAMS director Professor Nicholas Owens said the award was well-deserved recognition for many decades of world-leading research into seaweeds by many SAMS scientists. That research was “now being translated into innovative and practical solutions for the nascent seaweed industry by new generations of SAMS scientists, engineers and project managers”.

“It is an excellent example of how scientific ingenuity can help Scotland, the UK and the international community ‘grow back better’, through the blue economy,” added Owens.