The potential of algae as an environmental safeguard is being increasingly realized. By absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing fewer carbon emissions than plants, this renewable resource is becoming a powerful tool in the fight against climate change and plastic waste.
We take a look at innovators using seaweed to overcome the world’s sustainability challenges:
Seaweed Innovation Event
Ten international startups will present their seaweed-based food and packaging innovations at Seaweed Innovation Event on the 8th of June, 2023 — coinciding with World Oceans Day — at Scheveningen Beach, The Netherlands.
The event is part of the first edition of the Seaweed Innovation Challenge, organized by the seaweed industry association, North Sea Farmers, and the innovation platform of Brave New Food.
The finalists and 20 other startups from 13 countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, Tanzania, and Mexico, participated in the challenge.
Pitching on World Oceans Day
The North Sea Farmers’ team, Brave New Food, and jury members from Amazon, Nestlé, Colruyt Group, and DS Smith selected the challenge finalists:
- BettaF!sh (Germany): Introduced plant-based tuna made from seaweed last year in Germany and the UK in various flavors and formats. It has commercial partnerships with food service companies to offer its tuna in restaurants, vending machines, and even airplanes. BettaF!sh aims to expand its portfolio to all food categories.
- B’ZEOS (Norway): A green tech company that develops innovative packaging solutions. Their products are entirely seaweed-based and biodegradable.
- Dutch Seaweed Group: This startup launched the Netherlands’ first organic wakame salad to offer a local and sustainable product with high nutritional value. It has a seaweed farm in the Oosterschelde that grows wakame and kelp, among others.
- Dutch Weed Burger: Offers several alt seafood products enriched with seaweed and microalgae. This Amsterdam startup claims to make the best burger in the world, 100% plant-based and packed with proteins.
- FlexSea (The UK): Develops seaweed-based packaging solutions, 100% edible, allowing for many new packaging possibilities.
- Kelpi (The UK): Produces high-quality bioplastics based on seaweed. Its packaging is suitable for home composting and decomposes in less than a year.
- Oceanium (The UK): Produces OCEAN INK, a biodegradable seaweed-based ink suitable for packaging and textile applications. In 2021, this Scottish startup raised £2 million to scale its proprietary biorefinery and processing model.
- Olijck Foods (The Netherlands): Debuted with two brands centered around seaweed: Meat-You-Halfway (hybrid meat) and Sea Veggies (plant-based food products).
- Seaweed & Co.(The UK): Produces a range of food and nutrition ingredients from the wild Hebridean Ascophyllum seaweed harvested from the remote islands Hebrides.
- Seaweed Food Solutions (The Netherlands): Specializes in processing seaweed for the food industry. At the event, Seaweed Food Solutions will debut a plant-based spare rib made from seaweed and jackfruit, which the company says is “juicy, savory, meaty, and even better than the original.”
Eef Brouwers, manager and co-founder of North Sea Farmers, said: “I hope this challenge contributes to making seaweed more and more a part of our daily lives!”
More remarkable seaweed innovations
- Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) (Sout Korea): A research team led by Professor Hyung Joon Cha developed a microgel bioink derived from algae mixed with a bioink loaded with cells that favored general cell proliferation. The bioink significantly improves cell viability, printing resolution, and lamination capacity, thus providing a promising solution for tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and cultivated meat 3D bioprinting.
- Notpla (UK): Founded in 2014, Notpla is a seaweed pioneer present in many European countries. Its mission is to make packaging disappear by providing sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic, such as beverages, sauce pots, condiment sachets, and food service packaging. Its products biodegrade within 4-6 weeks, leaving zero problematic end-of-life. They are home compostable and have even been tested in a whale gut simulation for the TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Prize.
“Our packaging products are made using seaweed as the primary resource, along with plant extracts. Seaweed is a rapidly growing material that does not compete with food crops, requires no fresh water or fertilizers, and actively contributes to de-acidifying our oceans,” Pierre Paslier, co-founder and co-CEO of Notpla, told vegconomist in a recent interview.