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When it comes to a sustainable ocean economy, seaweed is an important asset for food and conservation, with economic value.

In a recent webinar, Adrien Vincent, who leads the ocean work of SYSTEMIQ and founded the Seaweed for Europe coalition, answered key questions about investing in seaweed. You can watch the webinar or read the highlights below.

Edited highlights
  • Why should we be excited about investment in seaweed?

    With more than 10,000 species, seaweed boasts a vast range of applications. It is used in food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals as a packaging, fuel and fertiliser.

    Unlike terrestrial agriculture, seaweed does not need fresh water, clear lands, fertiliser or pesticides to grow. While growing in the sea, it provides ecosystem services such as carbon absorption and sequestration, while providing a habitat for fish and marine fauna.

    In addition, seaweed farming can benefit coastal communities, which tend to experience higher rates of unemployment than those inland. Seaweed offers a job creation opportunity, the potential for year-round employment and income diversity for those in the fishing industry.

  • Why is now the time to act?

    Most market forecasters expect the global seaweed market to grow at 10-12% per year for the next decade. In Europe, the value of demand is predicted to grow to €9.3bn, potentially reaching a comparable size to the fishing industry.

    Numerous emerging trends support this level of growth. First is the growing interest in ocean health and the need to restore ocean ecosystems, as well as interest in nature-based carbon mitigation. In food, the demand for nutritious, locally sourced, vegetarian and vegan food is growing. In agriculture, there is an increasing need for biostimulants and biofertilisers to support the transition to organic production.

  • Why does Europe have such great potential?

    Europe is perfectly positioned to become a leader in the scale-up of seaweed production as it provides the right environmental, economic and political conditions to support investment.

    Europe has plenty of cold, nutrient-rich waters. The UK, Ireland, Denmark and Norway all offer the right nutrients, light conditions, currents, and waves for seaweed farming, along with the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. In particular, Scotland’s lochs and Norway’s fjords offer ideal conditions. The Mediterranean also provides opportunities to farm other species.

    Additionally, Europe is currently seeing an explosion in innovative ocean start-ups. There are 223 seaweed-focused start-ups currently, a number that has tripled in the last decade. Half of these are involved in food consumption, one-third are cosmetics, and one-fifth in animal feed. In 2020, 18 European investment deals raised a total of €21.6m.

    Finally, there is very favourable political momentum due to the European Green Deal. Seaweed ticks all the boxes of this deal, from helping to meet carbon targets, to supplying clean energy and preserving and restoring ecosystems.

  • What challenges must we overcome to unlock this potential?

    Several system-wide challenges are currently preventing the seaweed industry from reaching its potential, particularly in Europe.

    Asia produces 95% of global volumes of seaweed, with Europe falling far behind. Boosting production is essential, but this must work hand-in-hand with stimulating demand. This means entrepreneurs, business leaders and investors need to be creative in developing new, innovative products designed for the European market. The network of infrastructure must also be developed to process seaweed and refine it in a way that extracts the maximum value and produces zero waste.

  • How does Seaweed for Europe help?

    Seaweed for Europe is a coalition of 100 members, including seaweed farmers, processors, bio-refineries, product developers and investors, in 16 countries.

    It aims to create a network of stakeholders, raise awareness of the potential of seaweed and attract investment, optimise the seaweed farming licensing process, establish robust safety standards and leverage science to accelerate innovation.

    The organisation’s work includes running social media campaigns, publishing investor memos, launching a licensing toolkit, and creating events to promote seaweed, such as ‘Seaweed Day’, which shows the public the extensive range of applications of seaweed and a seaweed tasting event for the chefs of heads of states.

    One of Seaweed for Europe’s most significant successes is publishing a report called ‘Hidden Champion of the Ocean’ in 2020. This report quantifies the market potential of seaweed and its social and environmental benefits. It also includes several principles for how to develop the seaweed industry in a way that is fair, sustainable and resilient.

  • What is the current landscape for investment in seaweed?

    Philanthropists, VC funds and accelerators are currently the main investors in seaweed, although interest is growing among family offices, PE funds and corporate investors.

    The Bezos Earth Fund, launched by Jeff Bezos, allocated around €100m to the WWF to work on mangroves and seaweed. With this money, the WWF is making investments into companies to de-risk the deal for private investors.

    There is also the Blue Invest platform, which has deployed around €100m into blue economy SMEs and start-ups and is launching a new campaign worth €500m over five years. Algae and seaweed are among its key sectors.

    The Nature Conservancy is launching an acceleration programme to invest funds into regenerative agriculture companies, including seaweed.

    Finally, several VCs have recently announced funds with a clear focus on ocean health, including the Swen Blue Ocean Fund, the Blue Forward Fund and the Indico Capital Partners Blue Fund.

  • Where can you learn more?

    To learn more about the environmental potential of seaweed, read the UN Global Compact vision statement: Seaweed as a Nature-Based Climate Solution.

    To learn more about the investment potential, go to to read the report Hidden Champion of the Ocean and the investor memo The Case for Seaweed Investment in Europe.

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