HOPES are high that a £293,000 grant from the Coastal Communities Fund will help develop seaweed cultivation in Shetland.
The two year project is a collaboration between the NAFC Marine Centre, in Scalloway, and salmon farming company Scottish Sea Farms.
The funding will be used to establish a communal seaweed rope-seeding centre, perform seaweed on-growing trials and provide training.
Project manager Lesley McEvoy said the aim was to encourage diversification within Shetland’s sea farming companies and to support existing local seaweed-based businesses.
“The project will create three new direct jobs in addition to other indirect jobs in Shetland.
“Potentially, existing farm sites can be used for seaweed cultivation during their fallow periods, giving farmers an additional income stream while allowing the seaweed to naturally remediate the site,” she said.
Meanwhile Scottish Sea Farms applied in January to modify an existing works licence for a site at Garderhouse Voe, near Sand, to allow them to grow seaweed on 120 metre by 60 metre long lines.
Regional production manager Graham Smith said the company was “extremely interested” to see how seaweed cultivation could progress in the future.
Dr McEvoy added: “We’ve already had enquiries about using bulk seaweed crops in energy plants, both within Shetland and south, and seaweed has many uses within the homeopathic, culinary, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.”
The college’s head of marine science Dr Chevonne Angus said: “Over the last year or so, we have had a steady and increasing number of enquiries relating to seaweed cultivation, ongrowing and processing.
“This funding is allowing us to respond in a timely fashion to an emerging industry. Given the large number of uses of seaweed, there is scope for diversification into, and the sustainable development of, seaweed aquaculture.”