Seagriculture 2018

7th International Seaweed Conference

6-7 November, Galway, Ireland

Meet your conference speakers

Bernadete Castro

Founder, AlgaeMech Engineering and Consultancy, NL

 "Mechanisation of seawed farming: a critical factor for a trully sustainable upscaling of the seawed sector"

Bernardete Castro has a MsC. on Mechanical Engineering and did a PhD on “Design for sustainable resource use”. She has been leading several R&D projects at Royal IHC since 2006, namely the Seaweed Harvesting Technology Development project, which had the goal of developing mechanised technology for seaweed cultivation. During this project, a number of prototypes were developed and tested to assist seaweed farming. Royal IHC stopped the technology development, waiting for the market to further develop. Therefore, Bernardete founded her own company to assist starting farmers with devloping small seaweed farming equipment, better streamline farming processes and to join pilot and demonstration projects. She is currently R&D Manager at Royal IHC and runs Algeamech in part-time as well.

Presentation

Seaweed farming is a promising emerging market. Among the multiple seaweed uses, the use of seaweed as vegetal protein source is very promising and has a very positive social impact, in the view of a growing human population. In order to supply the estimated 75% additional food needed in by 2050 to feed 9 billion humans, land-based food production is likely not sufficient and probably not sustainable as well. In order to produce this amount of food in a sustainable way, humans look now to the seas, and in particular to seaweed farming.

The same developments are now taking place in seaweed farming as in land-based farming in the past century. In order to produce large amounts of food in an economically viable manner, modern agricultural practices such as plant selection and breeding are essential, and mechanization of tasks as well. Especially in West Europe where labour is costly, it is not viable to tend to a seaweed farm larger than a few thousand square meters relying only on manual labour. And even in Asia, scarcity of manual labour willing to work in the seaweed sector is also a recent phenomenon. Especially harvesting seaweed is a heavy work. The low wages and the added risks of working at sea make it an unattractive job, compared to other options for younger generations.

Therefore, introducing mechanization is not only a desirable, but essential factor in upscaling seaweed farming, and making it economically viable in the future. However, the mistakes made in the past by humans on large scale land farming need to be avoided, both on the cultivation practices as with the mechanisation and intensification of seaweed cultivation. This presentation will discuss the major results so far, and opportunities and hurdles still to be overcome, in order to achieve a truly large scale sustainable seaweed sector in the future: a sector that is economically profitable, socially responsible and environmental friendly.