Seafields, an aquaculture company based in the UK, on 5 June announced the success of its recent growth trials to determine whether or not Sargassum seaweed can be grown, controlled and domesticated. Considered a scientific breakthrough by the company, the trial's success, which took place in Saint Vincent, proves the company can move forward with plans to gather the seaweed and contain it in farms out at sea, before it becomes a nuisance to residents and tourism in coastal areas where the seaweed beaches.
Millions of tonnes of floating Sargassum are in the world's largest algal bloom, called the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt. The coastal regions of the Caribbean are significantly affected by the large fraction that beach each season, not just because it banks up on the beaches but also starts to degrade once it hits land, rotting and releasing greenhouse gasses back into the atmosphere and hydrogen sulphide that can negatively impact wildlife and affect people with respiratory problems.
Seafields' plan to reduce the amount of Sargassum beaching by catching the seaweed further out at sea before it reaches land through innovative 'catch and grow' stationary aquafarms.
Seafields Co-Founder and CEO, John Auckland said:
"Trials began in Saint Vincent over a year ago, starting with barrier tests. But we needed to prove that in controlling the Sargassum in the barrier, we could also control and domesticate it by keeping the Sargassum alive. Beyond that, if we could prove it would continue to grow in this environment, then we can capture more carbon dioxide in the process and start to regulate supply to some of the industries that are popping up around Sargassum in the region. We were really surprised that the Sargassum grew, which is a significant step forward. Now that we have proven it can be done, we can move forward with plans to build farms that can capture and grow the seaweed at scale."
Dr. Franziska Elmer, Seafields Scientific Project Manager, who led the trial said:
"Not only did we see survival and growth of Sargassum in our farms, it also attracted hundreds of juvenile fish including jacks that are popular with local fishermen. As these fish grew up and larger fish started using the farm as a habitat, local fishermen started using it as a spearfishing ground, helping them to earn their livelihood".
The end goal for Seafields is to make Sargassum a global solution for climate change by baling and sinking some of their crop in the deep ocean well away from the Caribbean islands, to remove billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide each year while also seeking to supply seaweed to companies that need a steady stockpile of the algae in their manufacturing process.
"Companies that intend to use seaweed for fossil fuel substitutes such as biofuels, feedstocks and alternatives to plastic are crying out for a steady supply of Sargassum. Unfortunately, Sargassum is unpredictable on how and when it will arrive in coastal regions, which doesn't help these companies plan for manufacture, nor can they use Sargassum that is already rotten." Continued Mr Auckland.
"Seafields' farms will not only help catch a lot of Sargassum before it beaches, but we will also flatten out the spikes of feast or famine of its arrival into the region, allowing processing businesses to maintain a continuous manufacturing cycle while providing stable employment to the region."
Seafields is a UK-based aquaculture business which is strongly focused on delivering innovative solutions to tackle climate change.
The company is introducing new technologies focused on the tracking, harvesting, baling and storage of Sargassum, a seaweed it plans to grow in its aqua-farms in the South Atlantic Ocean gyres.
Using its innovative approach, Seafields is radically tackling the challenge of climate change and aims to remove over 1Gt (one billion metric tonnes) of CO2 from the atmosphere each year by 2032.