Eat clean and blue: SeaMark project awarded multi-million euro funding for sustainable seaweed ingredients
23 Jun 2022 --- A grant of €9 million (US$9.5 million) has been awarded to operators upscaling ocean seaweed production and their market applications across Europe.
Financed by the EU’s key funding program Horizon Europe, the SeaMark project is looking to expand circular seaweed cultivation and land-based, integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems.
The project – to begin on July 1 – will develop novel processing methods involving fermentation and biotransformation into twelve innovative seaweed-based products. “The entire value chain will be analyzed for techno-economic feasibility and socio-economic impact,” highlights SeaMark.
The SeaMark consortium is led by “blue growth” company Ocean Rainforest and comprises 25 international, cross-disciplinary partners.
Blue growth for impactful ingredients
Edible seaweeds have been historically consumed as a readily available food source by most coastal communities around the world but are only currently consumed in high amounts in certain parts of the world.
But still, the seaweed category has grown more than 63% in the last five years, according to reports by industry players, as consumer awareness about seaweed’s mitigation of climate change and health benefits continues to grow.
Awareness growing surrounding the nutritional benefits of seaweed – such as its high content of iodine, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamins and antioxidants – has led to innovative product development, including novel functional beverages and desserts.
“Due to the need to build more resilient food systems and decrease reliance on fossil-based products, it is necessary to grow the blue bio-economy through seaweed cultivation and product innovation,” states SeaMark.
“SeaMark will help fulfill the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (3, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 14) by developing this industry and, simultaneously, providing a positive impact on people and the planet.”
An ocean of functional applications
Due to the internationalization of palates and alongside a need for more sustainable ingredients, a wider range of seaweed-based products is becoming available.
Fractions isolated from seaweeds are used as additives across a wide range of food products as thickeners, stabilizers, emulsifiers and gelling agents. Seaweed-based preparations and seaweed isolates, therefore, appear to offer a series of untapped opportunities in relation to novel food product development.
On the sustainable protein front, seaweed – and particularly red and green algae – holds much promise. Supplier Cargill utilizes red Gracilaria in its seaweed powder branded as WavePure ADG 8250, which accentuates smooth and creamy textures in dairy, while offering gelling and thickening properties.
In the sauces category, seaweed is being used by UK-based Sozyë, which has taken an innovative approach in creating allergen-free, soya-free, and plant-based alternatives to fish sauces, soy sauces and oyster sauces with the ingredient.
Seaweed also holds massive potential for the alt-seafood category. Earlier this week, a team of Danish scientists received funding to work with chefs at Copenhagen’s two Michelin-starred Alchemist to create a new seafood product by growing fungi on seaweed.
Next to macroscopic seaweed is the booming microalgae-based ingredients market, which has been forecasted to be worth US$1.8 billion by 2028 and records a compound growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3% for the same timeframe.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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