Is it possible to grow seaweed farms offshore?

‘Blue’ economy projects underway in Ireland. 

A Norwegian company, SES, is investigating if it’s possible to move its seaweed farms further offshore.

SES is working with Wave Dragon, a large wave energy device manufacturer. The firm hopes it can locate its seaweed farms in areas not usually viable and, more importantly, where there’s plenty of space. The idea is that the Wave Dragon will protect the seaweed from large waves and create energy at the same time. As a business, Wave Dragon and SES could share installation and maintenance costs. 

seaweed farming ireland

This is just one of nine ‘blue’ economy projects underway at UCC. 

The University is leading an EU project that is looking at more sustainable ways of using the sea by bringing companies together to share space. 

“It is hoped to pilot the Wave Dragon project off the Welsh coast,” says Dr Gordon Dalton, principal investigator of the MARIBE programme. “We have been helping companies involved in the Welsh scheme to prepare plans to secure the funding they require.”

MARIBE

The Wave Dragon project is part of an EU action, MARIBE, led by UCC with other University and business partners. 

Rather than just carrying out academic research, the MARIBE researchers also work with private companies in the marine industry with the aim of creating viable businesses. Eleven partners from Ireland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Malta and the Netherlands contribute to the project.

Farming at sea 

70% of the world’s surface is covered by water, and yet 98% of all food energy comes from farms on land. 

At a time when climate change and sustainability are critical issues, seaweed farming presents a “sustainable and renewable source of biomass to meet the demands of a growing population on land” says the research. 

seaweed farming ireland

The blue economy

According to the European Commission, the ‘blue’ economy represents roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates almost €500 billion a year. 

The EC says there is room for further growth. However, as maritime activity increases, so does the competition for space around coastal areas. 

The ‘race for coastal space’ led the Commission to ask researchers to prepare for the ‘future innovative offshore economy’. 

READ MORE: Ireland’s blue economy – centres of excellence include The Entrepreneur Ship and The Marine Institute.