Could Seaweed Transform what most of us love to eat? Meat?
Flipping through the voluminous news articles I receive every day, the issue of seaweed possibly being transformative for us showed up. For me, an exciting topic and “Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd.”
First, it may fit within what is good for the people, the planet and sustainability, the three-legged stool of looking at projects through a circular economy lens.
Second, our company, Sustainable Circular Economy, a small boutique firm in Vancouver, is working with a passionate group of First Nation members to develop a sustainable seaweed business, growing seaweed in some of the most pristine water one could ever imagine.
Sustainable Circular Economy’s goal is to assist businesses and FirstNation communities to do the world a world of good by developing excellent environmental outcomes that have been scrutinized through a circular economy lens.
The First Nation people have harvested and eaten seaweed as a delicate staple since time immemorial. They fry it, boil it, eat it raw and use it as a platform for snatching herring roe called “Gnoch,” which, I will admit, gives me the shivers. People eat salmon and sturgeon roe with gusto. Why not herring roe on a bed of seaweed?
Seaweed is high in nutrient value, with up to 30% protein, and can be used for making plastics and fuel and could be what the doctor ordered for being good for the people, the planet and sustainability.
We have to get down to “brass tacks.”The government is dictating us away from single-use plastics, which will increase deforestation, land conversion, and biodiversity loss, among other things. Then add all the land that will have to be taken up by new renewable energy systems, tilting at windmills and solar panels. We also have an increasing world population to feed.
Where can the sustainable food supply come from? From the bounty of the sea. Farming of seaweed to replace our need for meat and other forms of protein. Yummy stuff, hey? But, where there is a market, there is a willingness and a way, and in Sweden, at the Tjärnö Marine Laboratory, the scientists are working on the “way.”
Dr. Sophie Steinhagen of the Marine Laboratory suggests, “Climate change is affecting most of our crop systems, and we are in urgent need of new production. We cannot extend terrestrial farmland – so we need to go into the ocean.”1
Dr. Sophie Steinhagen is in her favourite place. Photo “Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd.” As we shift from a fossil fuel economy to a circular economy, seaweed has the potential to provide a lot of the compounds we need. My caveat is before people on one side, or the other become angry, I am not a supporter of the fossil fuel industry dragging its feet, nor am I a supporter of people who think it is all right to use violence or destroy another person’s property. Neither of those avenues helps us get to where we need to go. Neither do knee-jerk government reactions, where we will be left holding the bag after our politicians are long gone, living on some warm beach, like the Bahamas, with us facing the consequences. Thanks to the Swedes and the First Nation group our company is working with to come up with the answers to getting it right. We all recognize that shifting minds to accept seaweed to replace meat will be a stretch. But, we believe that market forces and pricing will benefit us. The other day, I paid $35/Kgf for some meat, and that in itself is
There is also the problem of seaweed turning into slime. It absorbs water, and the more water, the more slime. There is a trick to changing its structure, which I am confident the Swedes or others will conquer.
In Europe and elsewhere “over there,” there are no less than 20 ocean farms growing seaweed. In China and Japan, seaweed farms abound. The total worldwide production is approximately 358,000 tons, with 97% coming from Asia, and Canada falling behind with less than 0.005% of the total production2
First, we need the sites, and the First Nation has those with pristine water quality. They have been harvesting seaweed for “own use and barter and trade” since time immemorial, so the history of the quality of the sites is already there.
The big issue is technical knowledge transfer.There are methodologies that work and those that do not; we get one shot at this, and it has to be done right.
There are also processing and product challenges, such as how to extract the protein. All things the scientists are working on, but there is no “quick silver bullet.”
As we transition from a fossil fuel economy, we need solutions to feed our growing world population with sustainable solutions that are good for the people and the planet. The First Nations have been using seaweed since time immemorial for food and barter, and trade. The world, especially Asia, recognizes the advantages of seaweed producing 97% of the world’s 358,000 tons, with Canada way down the list at approximately 0.005%.
There is a tremendous opportunity with seaweed that can do the world a world of good, and one First Nation Sustainable Circular Economy is working with is focusing on doing just that.
Best wishes and Happy New Year from all of us…
Sustainable Circular Economy
Telephone: (604) 788 7261
Wayne Drury is CEO of Sustainable Circular Economy, a boutique firm in Vancouver, Canada, that helps businesses and First Nation communities to arrive at environmental solutions that are good for the people, the planet and are sustainable based upon a circular economy lens of reuse, repurpose, and recycle.