The seaweed industry provides a variety of products, with an estimated annual output value of US$5.5-6 billion. Food consumed by humans accounts for approximately US$5 billion of this. Substances extracted from seaweed — hydrocolloids — account for most of the remaining US$1 billion, while a small portion is used for other purposes, such as fertilizers and animal feed additives. The industry uses 7.5-8 million tons of wet seaweed from naturally grown (wild) or cultivated (farmed) crops annually.
All of this means that the global demand for seaweed continues to grow. The size of the commercial seaweed market could exceed $85 billion by 2026, according to research firm Global Market Insights.
In the past 20 years, many large projects have investigated using seaweed as indirect fuel. The idea is to ferment much seaweed growing in the ocean to produce biogas for fuel. The results show that the process is not yet economically feasible; more research and development will be required in a longer period.
Seaweed has a potential role in wastewater treatment. For example, certain seaweeds can also absorb heavy metal ions, such as zinc and cadmium, from polluted water bodies. Since seaweed can often use these wastes as a source of nutrients, seaweed has been experimentally cultivated near fish farms.
Several seaweed extracts have been reported to have antiviral properties. However, experiments have been conducted in vitreous test tubes (test tubes or similar) or animals; very few have been conducted on humans.
More importantly, seaweed is vital to life on the planet. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, seaweed makes up 50% to 80% of the earth’s oxygen supply. In fact, there are other reasons why seaweed cultivation is part of the global warming response.
Bren Smith, a seaweed farmer and founder of Thimble Island Marine Farm and GreenWave, said, “Regenerative ocean agriculture grows crops that revitalize the ocean.” There is no fresh water, no fertilizer, no fodder to give birth to the most sustainable food. At the same time, our factories absorbed carbon and nitrogen and rebuilt the coral reef system.”
Smith says all it takes to get started in seaweed farming is $20,000, 20 acres, and a boat.