The green transition implies a shift from the use of fossil to renewable resources. It means that we have to rely more on biological material – biomass – than before, from the lowest possible level in the food chain. Macroalgae – like kelps and other seaweeds – can be farmed in the ocean and obtain all their energy from the sun through photosynthesis, and thereby constitute a renewable resource. The world annual production of macroalgae amounts to more than 35 million tons, while in Norway and Europe only a few hundred tons are cultivated annually. We know that the potential for seaweed cultivation in Norway and Europe is great, but in order to make a difference the biomass must be used in the right way. There must also be a market for the biomass and the products in which it is used. The objective of GP Seaweed is to develop climate- and environmentally friendly products from kelp within four market areas and value chains: food; feed ingredients; biologically degradable plastics; and fertilizers and biochar for soil improvement and climate positive carbon storage. We will focus on products with the shortest path to the market, but also generate data that will form a basis for future products. This will ensure that the Norwegian seaweed industry will not only be an important provider of raw materials, but also deliver end products and competence. The planned products will utilise the entire biomass, with no residues. GP Seaweed will contribute to the development necessary for upscaling of technologies, reduction of processing costs, and tailoring the raw materials to the end products.
GP Seaweed will be carried out from 2023 to 2025 by seven industry companies and six research- and development partners. The industry partners are Circle Green, B'ZEOS, MIKO Innovation, Felleskjøpet fôrutvikling, Seaweed Solutions (SES), Ocean Forest, and Algae. The research partners are SINTEF Ocean, SINTEF Energy research, SINTEF Industry, NTNU, NIVA, and Mære agricultural school.
GP Seaweed will develop new products based on cultivated kelps, which can expand the markets and accelerate the growth in the seaweed farming, and at the same time contribute to climate regulation and mitigation. The consortium consists of seven industry partners and five R&D-partners. The industry partners consist of companies with the green transition as their business idea (Circle Green, B'Zeos, MIKO Innovasjon), companies that consider seaweed as a new feedstock for existing, or new products (Felleskjøpet Fôrutvikling), and seaweed producers and biorefineries (SES, Ocean Forest, Algea). Four value chains and markets are represented: Biodegradable plastics; fertilizers and biochar for soil improvement and carbon storage; food, which currently is the main market for Norwegian cultivated seaweed; and feed ingredients. Within each of the four markets, products with varying time perspective for commercialization have been identified by the respective industry partners.
The project will consider essential steps from efficient cultivation of environmentally friendly and tailored high quality kelp biomass via storage and conditioning to end products. Cost and energy efficient production processes will be developed, including pre-processing methods to ensure high-quality biomass for food applications; separation and extraction methods to produce crude and purified polysaccharides for plastics and feed applications; and pyrolysis or combustion processes to prepare biochar. The effects of industrial kelp cultivation on marine ecosystems will be assessed, ensuring a sustainable, environmental growth of this – in Norway – new industry. Further, the potential of seaweed farming for carbon sequestration and thus climate regulation and mitigation will be quantified.
The expected innovations will contribute to value creation in the industries, as well as contributing significantly to accelerate the green shift in Norway and beyond by combining blue and green value chains.