Written by the Editorial Team of Aquaculture Magazine
The research project of the Department of Marine Sciences, at the Swedish University of Gothenburg, BlueBioBoost – “Boosting seaweed farming through better utilization of genetic resources’ has received research funding of USD 1.52 million to develop European seaweed farms. The project will develop a genetic breeding program that will make it easier for seaweed farmers to grow the right seaweed to get the best possible results.
The BlueBioBoost project is part of the European Union (EU) partnership for a Sustainable Blue Economy and is funded by Formas in Sweden. Of the total of USD 1.52 million granted funds, USD 330,000 will go to the University of Gothenburg.
“We will investigate the genetic variation of seaweed and how this variation can be used in the development of seaweed farms. For example, there are a total of 20 unique species and subspecies of the macroalgae sea lettuce along Sweden’s coasts alone, and three of them are invasive. The project is part of the development of a sustainable cultivation of seaweed in order to increase the efficiency of seaweed production in Europe, while protecting our valuable oceans,” said Sophie Steinhagen, researcher at the Department of Marine Sciences.
More food from the sea
According to the researcher: “We need to eat more food from the sea for a more sustainable world. The European seaweed industry has considerable potential to contribute to critical societal challenges such as carbon neutrality, access to nutritious and sustainable food, and a sustainable and circular European bioeconomy.”
However, for Steinhagen, a backbone of solid scientific research is needed. The scientific objectives of BlueBioBoost include improving propagation efficiency and genotype selection, better utilizing genetic variation while maintaining local diversity, and actively engaging stakeholders in formulating a plan for the sustainable future of macroalgae breeding in Europe.
“Asian macroalgae cultivation has demonstrated the benefits of genetic improvement through selective breeding. Therefore, we outline a comprehensive breeding program involving the monitoring of genetic changes and the implementation of methods to prevent hybridization with natural populations, ensuring the health of marine ecosystems,” she added.
The goal of the project
“The project aims to contribute significantly to the European Blue Economy and sustainable seaweed aquaculture. The primary focus is on enhancing the utilization of genetic resources in seaweed cultivation. We are an international team of researchers from Norway, Belgium, Ireland, and Sweden and the project spans various European sea basins, including the Atlantic Sea, the North Sea, and Skagerrak, with anticipated outcomes impacting all relevant coastal areas for macroalgae cultivation in Europe,” explained the researcher.
“We will also actively involve stakeholders and companies in shaping macroalgae processing in Europe. For example, I will, together with the seaweed company Nordic Seafarm, develop breeding efforts for sea lettuces and sugar kelp.”
Among the project partners are NMBU, Seaweed Solutions, SINTEF Ocean, from Norway; Department of Marine Sciences of University of Gothenburg and NordicSeafarm, from Sweden; Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), from Belgium; and Irish Seaweed Consultancy and Marine Institute, Oranmore, from Ireland.
Research on seaweed microbiome
In the other hand, Steinhagen also received research USD 108,728 on funding from the EMBRC research infrastructure network to pioneer a novel approach in seaweed microbiome research. This project aims to integrate these resources into a public database, facilitating easy accessibility for researchers conducting laboratory experiments.
The project is called “MacroSea-MicroB: EMBRC Seaweed microbiome resources for a growing blue economy”, and its partners are the Ghent University, from Belgium; Centro de Ciências do Mar (CCMAR), from Portugal; Station Biologique Roscoff, of France; and Tjärno Marine Laboratory, also from the Swedish University of Gothenburg.