Seaweed is also a rich food source, with some containing about 30% protein, close to the levels found in meat and soya beans.
With its low-carbon footprint, and with minimal land-based infrastructure, Scottish seaweed farmers are making the most of the bounty from our pristine seas.
Turning the tide
Long used as animal feed or a soil improver, today, The Scottish Association for Marine Science, in Oban, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, is helping the industry grow, using its research knowledge to offer advice to startups, train workers and help businesses develop.
Globally, the seaweed farming industry has been growing exponentially and is estimated to be worth around £12bn per year, with a recent report suggesting that commercial-scale seaweed cultivation sector could generate over £70m for Scotland annually by 2040.
Already, around Scotland’s coastline, ambitious businesses are already developing and marketing innovative seaweed-based products.
The good news is, seaweed farming is not only good for the environment, it is good for us. Seaweed is a rich source of calcium and protein, containing higher levels of vitamin A and C than broccoli and it boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, while its high levels of iron are said to support healthy thyroid function, helping to regulate hormones and fight off everything from fatigue to depression.
If you are looking to turn away from meat eating, there is more iron in an 8g of Dulse than in 100g of sirloin steak.
Inshore seaweed farms also provide a natural barrier to coastal erosion, while also providing year-round employment opportunities in coastal communities.
From sugar kelp to peppery tasting dulse, the potential of seaweed-derived products is almost limitless. Low in calories and high in minerals, seaweed is a superfood. It can also provide the building blocks for new medicines, chemicals, and biodegradable bioplastics and packaging.
Across Scotland, ambitious seaweed farmers are already beginning to tap into SAMS’ network. They are accessing expert advice, new markets, and new products, which help them provide year-round employment in their local communities.
Historically, seaweed was gathered from the wild, by hand. Today, rope-grown seaweed is becoming the norm. This avoids the overexploitation of wild seaweed beds and protects the natural ocean ecosystem.
The challenge is to ensure that seaweed farming in Scotland develops in a way that is sustainable, environmentally responsible, and contributes to a diverse and resilient coastal economy.