“Within the framework of the ProSeaweed project, financed by the Dutch Ministry of
Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Wageningen University has analyzed the feasibility of using the Royal Kombu seaweed, native to the North Sea, for the production of hamburgers and salt replacement, in addition to analyzing its potential for reducing the environmental impact of the food industry.“
ProSeaweed is currently being carried out by a consortium formed by Wageningen University & Research, the North Sea Farmers Foundation (NSF) and Blonk Consultants. Together, and in addition to studies such as the patties, they have analyzed the overall environmental impact of Royal Kombu cultivation in the North Sea using current and future techniques.
Given that algae can play a key role in environmental conservation when incorporated into the human food chain, helping to reduce the climate impact of diets, NSF is using “all the knowledge generated to understand the impact of its production and evaluate the possibility of expanding the portfolio of products and algae species to be used,” they say on their website.
Currently, several European companies cultivate algae and the food market is the driving factor for its commercial cultivation. One of the most widely produced in Europe is the brown seaweed Saccharina latissima, also known as Royal Kombu, which originates from the North Sea.
“This seaweed can be used for nutritional applications and is considered a promising source of functional nutrients.“
As they explain in a report, in the analysis of the balance between nutrition and durability of Royal Kombu,“it is advisable to eat only one seaweed patty per week or eight days because it contains a lot of iodine.
As more is known over time about the iodine in Royal Kombu by product location and proper harvest timing, food safety risks can be minimized.”
The next step is to expand the product portfolio, both in terms of the types of products and the types of seaweed used as ingredients.
North Sea Farmers concluded that, together with the shipping industry, there is a need to develop efficient transportation options for seaweed. In terms of minimizing food safety risks, this is examined in the completed pilot project and the ongoing PROCESS project.
“NSF will use the results of the studies to provide entrepreneurs with more information on the impact of their product.”
Regarding environmental hotspots in the current cultivation and processing of Royal
Kombu for use in veggie burgers and as a salt substitute, the ProSeaweed report, life
cycle analysis indicates a key point during transportation. “A reduction in environmental impact can be achieved by transporting and using seaweed more efficiently.”
A successful case
It is interesting to note that in the Netherlands there is already a successful company that has been offering algae burgers made with Royal Kombu for some time. It is The Dutch Weed Burger, the first company to use algae from Zeewaar, the first algae farm in the Netherlands.
“Since then, we promote Dutch Weed, because we choose to work with what is available in the Netherlands, to help farmers and that seaweed can be commercially cultivated in NL,” said Mark Kulsdom, one of the two founders of The Dutch Weed Burger. North Sea Farmers (NSF) is an international membership foundation for the seaweed sector, consisting of approximately one hundred diverse members and partners.
“NSF works on joint investment projects and knowledge exchange on all aspects of
sustainable seaweed cultivation.“
Its activities are focused on but not limited to the North Sea. It is a non-profit organization with an ANBI status (Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling, non-profit tax designation in the Netherlands).