Australia’s emerging seaweed industry could be worth $1.5 billion by 2040
20 September 2021 at 4:11 pm
To ensure Australia’s seaweed industry reaches its full potential, key players have joined forces to create the Australian Sustainable Seaweed Alliance — the industry’s first peak body.
The discovery of a seaweed species, native to Australia, could be the game-changer the nation’s emerging seaweed sector needs to become a world leader in this space.
Key players in the Australian sector have come together to build on the discovery of asparagopsis, a species of seaweed that has become a high-value commodity on account of its ability to reduce methane emissions when added to animal feed.
While a global race is underway to commercially cultivate asparagopsis, Australia has a natural head start as it grows native to the country’s coastline.
To help drive the growth of the industry as a whole, and to help asparagopsis reach its full potential, the Australian Seaweed Institute, CH4 Global, FutureFeed, and the University of Tasmania have joined forces to set up the Australian Sustainable Seaweed Alliance (ASSA).
“We identified [in the report] that we needed a peak industry group to pull together the people around Australia who are working on seaweed projects in isolation. We need to work together on the overarching policy to get government investing coordinated so we can really kick start the industry,” she said.
The aim for ASSA is to have $100 million of seaweed in production by 2025.
The potential of asparagopsis
Kelly said finding asparagopsis had given the industry a real push.
“There’s such a demand for it as a natural seaweed supplementation because when added to animal feed, it helps to reduce methane. This helps the cattle and dairy industry reduce their missions,” Kelly told Pro Bono News.
“The benefit we have in Australia is that it’s a native species and the two different kinds of it grow all around the coastline in both the tropical and the temperate waters.
“It’s given us a real opportunity to lead the world [in this space]. But we need government policy and investment in the sector’s research and development.”
Australian company FutureFeed, which was born out of a partnership between CSIRO, Meat and Livestock Australia and James Cook University, is the only IP holder of asparagopsis in the world.
According to Dr Regan Crooks, CEO of FutureFeed, commercial cultivation of asparagopsis is the next step with groups in both Australia and internationally already making significant progress.
She believes that the formation of ASSA will help drive Australia’s success in the field.
“ASSA is prioritising the establishment of a National Hatchery Network,” Crooks said.
“That will facilitate access to seed stock and the research capability to enable the [asparagopsis] industry to scale rapidly.”
What does Australia’s seaweed industry look like?
Seaweed offers a huge opportunity for Australia’s sustainable ocean economy and regional economic development.
The Australian Seaweed Industry blueprint identified a $100 million-plus opportunity for seaweed production over the next five years, with the potential to scale to $1.5 billion by 2040 – something Kelly says will create thousands of jobs in regional towns and reduce Australia’s national greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
The economic power of seaweed lies in its ability to be turned into lots of other things, which then multiplies its value down the track.
“At the moment [in Australia] it’s a very nascent industry. We’ve got a small industry of about $3 million gross value of production, which essentially means the raw value of the commodity,” Kelly said.
To grow $3 million into $100 million by 2025, Kelly says Australia’s seaweed industry will focus on using seaweed for nutraceuticals, cosmetics and functional food.
“Low emissions animal feed is just the tip of the iceberg as the research into bioproducts from native Australian seaweed species has potential to contribute to global health and nutrition while adding significant value to the Australian environment and economy,” Kelly said.
However, to reach its full potential the industry needs significant funding.
The federal government has boosted investment in the sector and provided $59 million to fund the Marine Bioproduct Cooperative Research Centre over the next 10 years.
Kelly said this would be a critical enabler to increasing value and industry innovation.
Find out more about ASSA, here