Brussels has launched an ambitious plan to boost the seaweed industry in the context of post-Covid economic reconstruction, which starts with the launch of public consultation. The European Commission seeks to promote a strong and sustainable sector as a source of income, valuable food raw material, in line with the European Green Deal.
In the European Union (EU) there are 376 companies in the algae sector that generate about 4,000 jobs. In Spain, there are companies dedicated to the wild capture of seaweed, and only a few companies dedicated to its cultivation (20 tons), 83% of which are located in Andalusia and 17% in Galicia, according to data from Apromar corresponding to 2019.
Examples in innovation
"Our sector will be one of the few sectors that will come out of the crisis strengthened, as the crisis accelerated sustainability, innovation, biotechnology, and healthy eating trends; which fit very well with microalgae," stated the general director of AlgaEnergy, Carlos Rodriguez-Villa.
This company has 100 employees around the world and since 2007 has marketed microalgae and its derivatives for use in agriculture, nutrition, cosmetics, aquaculture, bioenergy, or pharmacy. In the last two years, the company which is already present in 20 markets opened subsidiaries in Japan, Italy, France, the United States, Mexico, India, Turkey, Australia, and Brazil.
In the Galician estuary of Arosa, La Patrona -a company made up of women- markets seaweed collected by hand. The algae is sold in fishmongers and organic stores, especially in the national market. They also have clients in Switzerland, France, and Germany.
La Patrona also has a maritime concession under development to raise algae for food, feed, or additives in Asturias. "It is a source of local employment. We need boats, divers, and offers income to the fishermen who collect the algae," stated the company's founder, Cristina Garcia. She also said they planned actions to promote menus with the area's hotel industry.
Both AlgaEnergy and La Patrona have participated in programs with support from the EU.
China leads the cultivation of algae, Chile collects them on the beach
The leading producers of seaweed in the world are China (18.5 million tons), Indonesia (9.3 million), and South Korea (1.7 million). The wild capture of seaweed is led by Chile (with 247,000 tons), followed by China (183,000 tons), and Norway (169,000 tons), according to Apromar data.