Story | 12 Feb, 2021

Farming seaweed on submersible platforms in Indonesia grows harvest, local economy, protected area possibilities

The latest Blue Natural Capital Financing Facility project has the fastest-growing aquaculture sector at its core, enhanced by newly developed platforms. This new method of seaweed farming can increase harvest yields up to 50-fold for farmers and communities, while at the same time bringing potential for strengthening biodiversity and our climate. Certain species, now beginning to be farmed, even have properties that might make seaweed key in decreasing humanity's carbon emissions.

Blue Natural Capital Financing Facility, in its latest project, is partnering with an enterprising company known as Seatech, creator of submersible platforms for seaweed farming. This innovation has the potential to kick start a competitive local seaweed industry, potentially providing jobs in regions where infrastructure may be weak. In parallel, the platforms themselves are physical barriers to harmful marine activities, creating protected areas where aquatic life can thrive.

An amazing “macro algae”, seaweed not only absorbs excess nutrients in salt water, it also decreases ocean acidification and provides habitats for many marine species. As a side project, Seatech Energy will cultivate the still-wild seaweed species Asparagopsis taxiformis (AT) that has the potential to almost eliminate the cattle industry's carbon footprint1. This project, centred in Vietnam, is a partnership with Greener Grazing, a company developing the science and methodologies needed to initiate scalable, ocean-based farming of AT.

The platform technology

These patented seaweed platforms can be used at varying depth which gives the farmer means to adjust to different external conditions. Contrary to traditional methods on the surface, these macro algae also grow faster when submersed in the water column, which better reflects how seaweed grows in the wild.

IUCN’s Blue Natural Capital Financing Facility (BNCFF) supports Seatech’s launch of its seaweed production in South Sulawesi (Indonesia) and carrying out important studies to make sure the environment is not harmed; also to better understand effects on the local marine ecosystem.

In addition, BNCFF finances cultivation of the wild seaweed species Asparagopsis which has been found to almost eliminate methane release of ruminants if added in relatively small amounts to feedstock.

Bridging the gap between profit and conservation

Seatech Energy provides an opportunity for underdeveloped regions to increase the competitiveness of their seaweed industry or to kick-start a viable local economy.

Because of the tangible benefits to climate and ecosystems, such social development goes hand in hand with environmental protection and forms an attractive Nature-based Solution (NbS).

Embedded in sound marine protection concepts, this form of aquaculture can also be used to enforce Marine Protected Areas that are currently unmanaged due to lack of alternative income opportunities.

At a glance

+ 350ha of marine protected areas

+ Improved habitat for marine species

+ Decrease in local ocean acidification

+ Commercialization of new seaweed products critical for climate change mitigation

+ 500 new jobs

Big-picture goal: The roll out of the model throughout Indonesia and beyond.