Scientists find other uses for seaweed farming
While seaweed benefits the human body with essential nutrients and minerals, scientists all over the world are looking into how it can also benefit the environment. Seaweed farming is already known for being minimally demanding on the environment, but research in Europe and Australia has found how seaweed farming can actually give back to it, either by creating sustainable energy or reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In Australia, climate scientist Tim Flannery hypothesizes that big seaweed farms might be able to correct climate damages by sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. His eco-geoengineering theory aims to improve on what trees offer the environment on land, but in a more frequently produced, and therefore more efficient, manner.
Flannery explained that seaweed grows at a much higher rate than plants on dry land and can significantly reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
"If you cover nine percent of the world's oceans in seaweed farms, you could draw down the equivalent of all our current emissions — more than 40 gigatons a year," he said in an interview with E360.
The Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN) has also found another viable use for seaweed: producing energy. The European At-Sea project has developed textile mats for seaweed farming on the North Sea that can produce up to 2,000 kilograms of wet seaweed per mat.
"This technique is the first step towards larger-scale production of seaweed," said Andre Wortel from ECN. "We used to weigh harvests in kilos; we will soon be weighing them in tons."
ECN hopes that these farms can increase the amount of seaweed grown and harvested in the North Sea and generate enough biomass for a factory producing biofuel and high-grade chemicals and nutrients. Their research estimates that by 2020, seaweed farming on 10 percent of the North Sea can produce enough energy per year equal to energy yielded from wind turbines.
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