Brief Summaries of presentations at
the Seagriculture Conference 2017 at The Hague

Session 1: Current research, cultivation and product launches

This conference is starting with an analysis on the current situation of cultivating seaweeds and thereafter, the applications, the harvesting and processing and marine agronomy of seaweeds will be discussed and analysed.

In session 1, Stefan Kraan, Eef Brouwers and Marcel Schuttelaar shed a light on the current research, cultivation and product launches. Stefan Kraan, director of R&D of Oceana Organic Products and Aquaceuticals, told about the global seaweed experience with a focus on usage and applications. Thereby, analysing the current potential of seaweeds but also mentioning the possible constraints for the expanding seaweed industry.

Eef Brouwers, co-founder of the North Sea Farm Foundation provided an overview of the current European developments of cultivating seaweeds specified on the main producing countries and the largest consuming countries. Eef Brouwers concluded that the current European seaweed market has a lot of opportunities because of the current positive momentum and by focussing on our quality and automatisation.

Marcel Schuttelaar, Founder of Schuttelaar & Partners and member of Healthy World Cooperation ended session 1 with a quick wrap-up.

Session 2: Products for current and future markets, commodities, high value products and developments to watch

Session 2 aims to provide an overview of products for the current and future markets, commodities, high value products and developments to watch.

Alexandre Budan, Marcel Hulst, Henri Beekers and Sebastien Hameury were the four inspiring speakers in this Session. Alexandre Budan, PhD R&D Engineer working for Cargill Premix Nutrition, and Marcel Hulst, project leader animal genomics, showed the potential of some types of algae as non-starch soluble polysaccharides (NSSP) to alert the immune system in case of infection by E.coli. There new data even suggest that some algae derived NSSP might be more efficient than NSSP derived from yeast.

Henri Beekers, R&D Manager Plant Care, Melspring, demonstrated the role of bioactive seaweed compounds on plant development and yield. Olmix use seaweed extracts molecules as additives for plant care application in order to reduce the pesticide use, improving plant growth and help nutrients to enter the plant.

Sebastien Hameury, Active Cosmetic Ingredient & In vitro/in vivo Evaluation Project Manager closed session 2 with an overview of the current use of macroalgae in cosmetics but also shared some reflections on future developments of macroalgae in cosmetics. He pointed out that the use of macroalgae in cosmetics is not a new development. However, due to the constant innovating market of cosmetics new seaweed applications have to be fastly created. Therefore, Sebastien Hameury points out the importance of being creative and always look for new applications of seaweeds.

Session 3: Practical approaches of efficient seaweed harvesting and processing

During the third session of day one, the practical approaches of efficient seaweed harvesting and processing were discussed. The chairman of this session is Ana M. López Contreras.

Olavur Gregersen, Managing Director of Ocean Rainforest, kicked off by explaining their concept of cultivating macroalgae in open ocean cultivation installations near the coast of the Faroe Islands. Their goal is to become the most reliable provider of high quality seaweed cultivated in Europe. In order to do so more research has to be conducted. Therefore, mr. Gregersen mainly devoted his presentation on the underlying cost structure of macroalgal cultivation, harvesting and processing in terms of capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX).

The second speaker of the session is Inga Marie Aasen. She is a biochemical engineer who is specialized in microbial production processes and downstream processing and separation technology. On behalf of SINTEF mrs. Aasen argued the possible utilisations of seaweed. In the presentation she spoke about the results of the projects SINTEF is engaged in. The first topic is animal feed. The results showed that if seaweed is used as animal feed, the protein content has to be increased by reduction of salts and soluble carbohydrates. The second topic is on the challenge of water-removal in seaweed as this is an energy demanding process. In one of the projects SINTEF is involved they studied the use of enzymatic depolymerisation compared with simple thermal and chemical methods in pre-treatment processes. The last application was on the maximum acceptable biomass costs in a seaweed biorefinery.

The last speaker of the session, Jan Wilco Dijkstra spoke about the possibilities of seaweed to contribute to the production of renewable transport fuels. Mr. Dijkstra is currently working for ECN, a governmental supported independent energy research institute working on a broad spectrum of energy and environmental techniques. In order to produce these transport fuels, biorefinery concepts are being developed in a staged approach.

Session 4: Marine agronomy: Technologies to be transferred, from crop selection to rotation and the needs for advanced, structural engineering

The fourth and last session of day one was mainly on marine agronomy. This session was hosted by Jon Funderud, CEO of the Norwegian company Seaweed Energy Solutions AS.

Marc von Keitz, program director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), is developing and managing high-risk and high-reward funding programs to advance the development of innovative biomass production as well as biochemical and thermo-chemical conversion processes for the production of fuels and chemicals. In his speech he talked about the MAcroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources (MARINER) program. This program focusses on the development of advanced technologies for large-scale cultivation of macroalgae in the ocean.

The second speaker was Prof. Dr. Klaas R. Timmermans, Head of Department Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS) at NWO-NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. During his lecture Prof. Dr. Klaas R. Timmermans spoke about Phycomorph. Phycomorph is an EU COST project that wants to unify a scattered European research landscape to enable a step-change in the basic knowledge of macroalgal reproduction and development. A few examples of the contributions of Phycomorph are publications of new studies, protocols dedicated to macroalgae research and guidelines regarding seaweed aquaculture in Europe.

The last speaker of the day was Alvaro Israel. Dr. Israel is a senior scientist at the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research (IOLR), a non-profit governmental corporation. Dr. Israel has engaged in studying photosynthesis, carbon fixation and ecology of marine macroalgae. In his lecture he discussed the methods for offshore cultivation, harvesting and conversion of macroalgae biomass into usable compounds for a variety of industries, based on the current information and global experience, including the potential use of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

Session 5: Sustainable germ production, breeding and selection

Day two consists of two sessions, session 5: Sustainable germ production, breeding and selection and session 6: Seagriculture in the context of governance, planning, ecosystems and environmental sustainability. Jorunn Skjermo from SINTEF Ocean AS is hosting session 5 and is a representative of SIG Seaweed, the special interest group for the Norwegian seaweed industry with more than 100 members. Together with SINTEF Ocean AS and other industrial and public partners (e.g. EU Horizon 2020) they conducted research on land-based seedlings and offshore cultivation of seaweeds. Session 5 consists of three speakers; Ester Serrão, Job Schippers and Yacine Badis.

Ester Serrão, an associate professor at the University of Algarve, Portugal, leads a research team at the Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) and discussed the practical applications of seaweed population genetics. She stressed the potential threats and potential loss of genetic variability in local seaweed populations in Europe. In addition, small and isolated seaweed populations which have a low genetic diversity may have a lower adaptive capacity relative to more diverse populations. Current trends of global warming and climate change may further inhibit genetic variability and interconnectedness between different seaweed species and populations. Therefore, she argues the need to maintain genetic diversity of local populations, address problematic issues regarding climate change and global warming and further research the influences of invasive species on genetic diversity.

With a background in the seed industry, Job Schippers was inspired by the huge potential of integrated seaweed cultivation with the fish industry. He found the company Hortimare based in The Netherlands in 2008 which is specialised in seaweed plantlets, providing high-quality, ready-to-use seaweed for seaweed cultivators with a focus on local seaweeds and sustainability. He mentioned the relevance of high-quality starting material for seaweed farmers to work with and addresses the issues regarding seeding technologies and discusses the selective breeding process of seaweeds and both its advantages as disadvantages. While focussing on selective breeding at Hortimare, they are (not yet) looking into genetically modifying seaweeds.

Yacine Badis, Post-Doctoral Researcher working for SAMS, researched the presence of pathogens in European seas, among which the destructive Japanese species O.porphyrae. In fast growing aquaculture sectors such as the seaweed industry, emerging diseases can cause severe loss of biomass. He researched the possible presence of pathogens of red seaweeds and concluded that varieties of the O.porphyrae and two new Olpidiopsis species were monitored. Due to the destructive effects in Asian farms, Olpidiopsis pathogens should be closely monitored in the red algae aquaculture. He argues the need for an international biosecurity framework to limit the spread of different pathogens.

Session 6: Seagriculture in the context of governance, planning, ecosystems and environmental sustainability

Yvonne Koorengevel is the chairwoman of the 6th and last session of the Seagriculture Conference 2017. She is a senior policy advisor for the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. She starts with the leading role of The Netherlands in the world regarding agriculture and other food-related issues. There is room for growth regarding the seaweed industry in The Netherlands and she urges businesses and researchers to closely work together to use the full potential of seaweed cultivation and is supporting seaweed businesses to become economically feasible.

The first speaker of session 6 is the CEO of Seaweed Harvest Holland, John van Leeuwen. He is producing seaweed products for over 8 years now and is involved in increasing seaweed production in The Netherlands.

Seaweed Harvest Holland B.V. is a cooperation between several Dutch seaweed related businesses and was founded in 2015. In 2017 Seaweed Harvest Holland first started growing several seaweed species (Ulva, Undaria, Saccharina, Himanthalia, Laminaria, Porphyra) in the Eastern Scheldt, a former estuary in the province of Zeeland, The Netherlands. Seaweed Harvest Holland’s mission is to cultivate these seaweeds in an innovative, efficient and sustainable way all year long on different locations in the Eastern Scheldt. They also aim to reproduce, process and trade their cultivated seaweeds themselves in their laboratory. Scaling, efficient cultivation methods and other challenges still remain an issue for the company.

Bert Groenendaal, R&D project coordinator at Sioen Industries, shares the objective of SeaConomy to cultivate in a profitable but sustainable way, with a focus on improving mechanization. He presented the additional benefits of cultivating seaweeds such as carbon dioxide and nutrient capture. In addition, he argues that in order to cultivate in a profitable and sustainable way in Europe if is of importance to mechanise all processes, cultivate in 2D (or 3D), cultivate in a smart and sustainable way and serve existing and new markets.

Prof. Dr. Bela Buck studied marine biology at the University of Bremen, the Institute for Marine Research (Kiel) and at the Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT) in Bremen (all in Germany). Today, Bela H. Buck is involved in various projects concerning the cultivation of marine plants/animals, the development of technological design and the realisation of pilot projects to commercial enterprises for The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), a foundation under public law and member of the Helmholtz Association - the largest marine-science organization in Germany. In his presentation he discussed the feasibility of integrating seaweed cultivation in offshore wind farms. The aquaculture of macroalgae contributes to a large marine production worldwide, mainly Asia, with still rising production volumes. Two large challenges that are facing marine agriculture is multi-use aquaculture, or combining different kinds of aquaculture, and moving cultivation sites further offshore. The institute investigated, together with several other research institutes, environmental conditions at potential offshore cultivation sites and the possibility for aquaculture to be used in a multi-use setting (e.g. IMTA). There have been promising results from a technological perspective, mainly in connecting different aquaculture devices applied to wind turbines. However, there are presently only few commercial running enterprises with seaweed species offshore. This can be mainly attributed to the high initial installation costs involved. One option to counter bate this limitation are multi-use cultivation scenarios which hold promising potential. However, these offshore IMTA concepts are still on project scale but hold the prospect of commercial viability in the near future, if the projections of rising demand will continue.

Sander van den Burg, Wageningen University & Research, stresses the need of a framework for safe production of marine plants and use of ocean space in the multi-use of wind turbines and seaweed farms. He presented a draft framework provided by SOMOS which focuses on food safety, safety of people & equipment and safety of the marine environment. The SOMOS project aims to develop a meaningful safety assessment and control to stimulate the production of energy and food at sea.