Aussie seaweed: a $1.5 billion opportunity

7th September 2020 | Eativity editors

AgriFutures Australia has released an Australian Seaweed Industry Blueprint that outlines plans for a $1.5 billion Australian seaweed industry that could employ 9000 people and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent.  

The Australian seaweed industry is making waves, with plans to be a $100 million+ industry in the next five years. Investors and entrepreneurs are lining up to get involved in seaweed to make money and make a difference by reducing emissions, improving ocean health and creating jobs in regional areas. For current seaweed producers, the blueprint offers the foundations needed to mobilise industry development and realise the opportunities in sight.

“Seaweed offers a huge opportunity for Australia’s blue economy development, with the global seaweed market projected at $30 billion by 2025,” says Jo Kelly, CEO of the Australian Seaweed Institute and lead author of the Australian Seaweed Industry Blueprint. “Australia has no commercial-scale seaweed ocean farms and no industry development plan, but rapid change is on the horizon.

“We’ve consulted with industry and identified a $100 million+ opportunity for seaweed over the next five years, with potential to scale to $1.5 billion over the next 20 years. This will create thousands of jobs in regional towns and reduce Australia’s national greenhouse gas emissions significantly.”

Reducing methane emissions from cattle is just one of many benefits that seaweed can provide.

The opportunity for an Australian seaweed industry is important from an economic, environmental and social impact lens. Just one of the native seaweeds found off the Australian coast, Asparagopsis, has been shown to reduce methane emissions from cattle to almost zero when added to their feed. This is significant given around 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia come from the digestion process of cattle.  

Recent media coverage has revealed major investors such as Andrew Forrest, Woolworths and GrainCorp have invested in Future Feed, a commercialisation of the Asparagopsis feed additive pioneered by the CSIRO. 

“This single use for seaweed is incredibly exciting”, says Kelly. “But it’s just the tip of the iceberg, as research into bioproducts from native Australian seaweed species has potential to contribute to global health and nutrition while adding significant value to the economy.”

Kelp farms can help to clear the water in fish farms.

The future of the industry will rely on significant expansion into ocean cultivation of native seaweeds and development of high value nutritional products for humans, animals and plants. Major opportunities identified by the report include: 

• Large scale ocean cultivation of Asparagopsis seaweed is projected to feed at least 30 percent of Australia’s cattle herd by 2025. 
• Extension of kelp farming around fish farms to clean the water and provide additional revenue streams for aquaculture businesses across temperate southern Australia. 
• Development of seaweed biofilters to remove excess nutrients and protect the Great Barrier Reef while providing beneficial agricultural products in a circular economy.
• Development of offshore integrated food, energy and carbon sequestration platforms for sustainable food production into the future.
• Biodiscovery from native Australian seaweeds to uncover valuable compounds. 
• Development of new seaweed products using advanced manufacturing techniques.