The NAFC Marine Centre has been awarded over £290,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund to develop seaweed cultivation in Shetland.
The money will be used to establish a communal seaweed rope-seeding centre, perform seaweed ongrowing trials and provide training and knowledge-exchange activities.
NAFC aquaculture scientist and project manager Lesley McEvoy said: “We’re very grateful to the Coastal Communities Fund for supporting this two-year project to encourage product diversification within Shetland’s sea farming companies and also to support existing local seaweed-based businesses.
“The project will create three new direct jobs in addition to other indirect jobs in Shetland. Potentially, existing farm sites can be used for seaweed cultivation during their fallow periods, giving farmers an additional income stream while allowing the seaweed to naturally remediate the site.
“Scottish Sea Farms Ltd has been particularly supportive, making available one of their sites for demonstration purposes. We hope that other businesses will also want to trial our seaweed-seeded strings, when we are properly set up, towards the end of this year.
“We’ve already had enquiries about using bulk seaweed crops in energy plants, both within Shetland and south, and seaweed has many uses within the homeopathic, culinary, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.”
Scottish Sea Farms regional production manager Graham Smith said: “We are happy to be supporting the NAFC Marine Centre’s project and we are extremely interested to see how seaweed cultivation could progress in the future.”
NAFC joint head of marine science and technology Chevonne Angus: “This project is an excellent example of how our department responds to, and meets, the research and development and training needs of local maritime industries.
“Over the last year or so, we have had a steady and increasing number of enquiries relating to seaweed cultivation, ongrowing and processing.”
Dr Angus said the funding was allowing us to respond in a timely fashion to an emerging industry.
She added: “Given the large number of uses of seaweed, there is scope for diversification into, and the sustainable development of, seaweed aquaculture. We are very pleased to be part of that process.”
Over 50 Coastal Community Fund winners across the UK were announced last Friday.
The winners will share £27.7 million of funding, supporting over 4,000 jobs and creating over 1,000 new apprenticeships and training places.