Asia is the undisputed leader in seaweed cultivation—Japan produces 350,000 tons of Nori annually, while China and Indonesia supply 81.4% of the world’s total supply of aquatic algae. But, on the other side of the world, Norway is trying to jumpstart a nascent seaweed industry that might one day challenge Asia’s dominance in the seaweed space. Working in a lab, Norwegian scientists have successfully grown a species of seaweed called red cellophane (Wilemania amplissima), which is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. They're hoping to cultivate it, and possibly other seaweeds, in an automated way on a large scale.
To date, there have been three main challenges to a Norwegian seaweed industry: cost, reliability of supply, and potential markets. Automated cultivation has the potential to solve the first two issues. As for the third, there are a couple of possibilities. Currently, feed for farmed fish, another big Norwegian industry, relies on soybeans from Brazil; but seaweed could be an alternate source of feed. Norwegian seaweed could also find its way into nutritional supplements. Finally, those who are at the forefront of seaweed cultivation in Norway would love to see human consumption as a main outlet for their product—as in Asia—although that type of cultural shift is not bound to happen overnight.
Source: NutraIngredients / Hakai Magazine