EUROPE'S seaweed market could be grown to be worth €9 billion in just a decade, according to a Norwegian-led report.

'Hidden Champion of the Ocean: Seaweed as a Growth Engine for a Sustainable European Future', was released this week by the Seaweed for Europe Coalition, which argues that with targeted investment, regulatory streamlining, and increased research and development, regenerative seaweed farming could bring economic prosperity, healthier foodstuffs and help correct the nutrient balance of the sea around fish farms.

“Our report shows seaweed can be an important driver of economic growth in Europe, with a number of environmental, social and health benefits—a triple win for the continent,” said Vidar Helgesen, co-chair of Seaweed for Europe and special envoy of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Seaweed can also play a role in a sustainable post-Covid-19 green recovery and contribute to a European Green Deal to drive both economic growth and sustainability.

“The ocean holds tremendous opportunities for boosting jobs and the economy while at the same time helping and healing the planet. This report highlights the new, sustainable business opportunities that seaweed can represent, and I welcome this contribution to increasing our awareness of ocean health and wealth.”

Seaweed is actually a type of algae that grows in a variety of forms and colours in the ocean. Rich in minerals, vitamins, and polysaccharides (a type of carbohydrate), with some species also containing larger amounts of amino acids, proteins and fatty acids, seaweed is a nutritious food as well as a nutrient-rich base for a variety of products including animal feed. Seaweed is also used in cosmetics and bio-packaging, with possible future applications in biofuel or textiles. The report suggests the highest growth potential segments in Europe include seaweed-based animal feed, food and biostimulants for use in agriculture and horticulture.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg commented: “A healthy and sustainable ocean economy is absolutely necessary for the attainment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and a successful response to the looming Climate Crisis – no healthy planet without a healthy ocean! This new report makes clear that the seaweed industry in Europe can be an integral part of that story, bringing with it sustainable and resilient jobs, regenerated ecosystem services and solid business opportunities. I’m pleased to see that the report offers the necessary systemic guiding principles to make that so, along with a timely roadmap to unlock the potential of a sustainable seaweed sector in Europe.”

“Seaweed is a true ‘superfood’," declared chef Ørjan Johannessen, winner of the 2015 Bocuse d’Or. "It is a dense source of iodine, fibre, vitamins C, K and B-12, antioxidants and other essential nutrients. I fully agree with the essence and title of this report: Seaweed is a hidden champion of the ocean! It’s a natural solution that helps biodiversity, health and job creation. And, not to forget: taste.”

There are a number of environmental benefits associated with growing seaweed. First, farming seaweed does not require any freshwater, fertiliser or external inputs; there is no need to repurpose or clear land for its production. Seaweed also contributes to overall ocean health by addressing acidification and removing up to 20,000 tonnes of nitrogen and 2000 tonnes of phosphorus from European waters per year in 2030. Seaweed also preserves biodiversity through provision of habitats and food for fish.

In addition, an expanded European seaweed industry could offset greenhouse gas emissions of up to 800,000 Europeans per year in 2030, based on emissions avoided by the animal feed, bio-packaging and biofuel.