Seaweed, as the name aptly reflects, is the creation of the underwater world. However the weeds like dulse, kelp, laver, carrageen, badderlocks, and tangle with their specific traits of rich nutritious content are much more than weeds and reminiscent of any healthy and nutritious land-based food. They bloom under the sea and are exhorted as an important part of the diet amongst many Asians. Seaweed’s specialty also lies in its effective use as a rich source of biomass energy, animal feed due to its mineral rich properties, agricultural and horticultural fertiliser, facial scrub, moisturiser and shampoo.
Recent studies by the Scottish Association for Marine Science have recommended its use in the aquaculture industry but people here still have not grasped the taste of seaweed, even though 650 edible varieties of it are growing along the 11,000 miles of UK coastline. Traditionally seaweed farming uk was being done by using storm cast or harvesting wild stands of it and even utilizing it as their main source of food, as far back as 600 AD. However recently seaweed farming in the UK has become the most viable option for farmers due to its market value worldwide. Moreover recently seaaweeds are being exploited as a fertiliser, as a source of iodine, for the chemicals present in it and its use in alginates production.
For harvesting seaweed for food, farmers require permission of the local authorities as the seabed is occupied by the Crown estates. In fact oil companies are also showing their interest in seaweed harvesting for the natural oil, but this is not agreeable to the conservationists who are trying to protect the areas around coastline, for the entire coastline is not conducive for the development of aquaculture. The only option then left for the farmers is the offshore and onshore farming. Onshore farming is done by pumping water inside the tanks on land where the seaweed is grown like an organic fish. While offshore farming is possible only when offshore wind farms are constructed as they require oxygenated water for quality growth.
Seaweeds are no doubt very valuable in terms of their productivity and it has been found that brown kelps can create 16 to 65 kilos of biomass per sq m every year. But to harvest the same innovative aquatic harvester is a need of the hour to make it convenient for the banks of kelp to be cut at a faster rate and without much human efforts. Kelp forests are very dense and their growth is also very fast making it the most convenient point for periodic harvesting.
Wild seaweed could be a great initiation point but according to one of the surveys there are around 8000 sq km of habitat in Scotland sub-littoral waters but only 1,000 square kilometers of the area is suitable for harvesting of seaweed for commercial use. It is said that in Scotland harvesting of seaweeds for biofuels is the most viable and profitable venture as it meets the needs of our daily use of energy in the form of fuels for our vehicles.
Seaweed harvesting has been a traditional form of farming in most areas of Britain but it saw a downfall in the twentieth century. But looking at the vast potentialities and the natural coastlines, seaweed farming in the UK can again become a great commercial success and a highly profitable venture for its harvesters.