BIM Highlights the Business Potential of Seaweed

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Seafood Development Agency hosted a ‘Seaweed Innovation’ workshop in their Seafood Development Centre in Clonakilty, Co. Cork today, the 12th December.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Seafood Development Agency hosted a ‘Seaweed Innovation’ workshop in their Seafood Innovation Hub in Clonakilty, Co. Cork today, the 12th December.

Given the high levels of nutrients and antioxidants in seaweed and the sustainability of the resource, it is not surprising that three out of five enquiries to work with the Seafood Development Centre are based on seaweed and on foods incorporating seaweed. Seaweed has been eaten traditionally in Ireland for thousands of years with seaweed being linked to cures for diseases, anti obesity and health traditionally.

The ‘Seaweed Innovation’ workshop was well attended and the agenda was designed to allow the companies present and the experts in the field to develop new innovative ideas to grow the sector.

To highlight the versatility of seaweed in cooking, Sally McKenna (Bridgestone Guides) and Prannie Rhattigan (Irish Seaweed Kitchen) gave practical cookery demonstrations using different seaweed species. To promote the variety of seaweed products on the market, many of our successful seaweed companies including Wild Irish Sea Vegetables, Blath na Mara and Healthy You exhibited and delivered talks at the event. Seaweed equipment and packaging manufacturers were on hand to give demonstrations on the products available and BIM’s David Millard and Freddie O’Mahony gave an overview on seaweed aquaculture and the most successful species and method used to date. Industry speakers including Dagmar Stengel from NUIG and Dr. Simon Faulker from Ocean Harvest gave their expert opinions on the resource.

Masterclasses in seafood identification and processing and packaging were given by BIM’s Pete Donlon and John Fagan and Maírtín Walsh and Lucy Watson from BIM’s Business Development and Aquaculture Divisions delivered informative presentations on the market opportunities for seaweed and the latest cultivation techniques.

On an international front, products made from seaweed from around the world were showcased with international speaker Dr. Alan Critchley, Head of Innovation in Arcadian Sea Plants joining the workshop by video link from Canada.

Ireland’s seaweed and biotechnology sector is currently worth approximately €18 million per annum with a target in place to grow the sector to €30 million by 2020 (as outlined in the Marine Institute Sea Change Strategy 2006). 36,000 tonnes of seaweed (wild product) is currently processed and 185 full time equivalents are employed as a result. The product source is currently limited to the wild resource and product range is limited in the main to high volume, low value products such as animal feeds, plant supplements, specialist fertilisers and agricultural products. A smaller proportion goes into higher value products such as foods, cosmetics and therapies. BIM is working with the seaweed industry to grow new businesses and to grow the value in existing businesses. Ireland has an incredible natural resource in seaweed that can be harnessed for the benefits of creating employment and value for the economy.