Seaweed was known as one of the most tedious existences in ocean environment. But it all changed as more and more research have proven that their presence is not only important for the environment alone, but also to us humans.
Used to be known only as a sushi ingredient, it is actually more than that. The benefits that it can give us is so plenty and incredible that in short future, a seaweed boom is predicted to arrive. The problem is, are we going to embrace it or let it happen and just become a spectator in it?
Of course, there are reasons why seaweed boom is predicted to come. It includes its economic value and environmental value, which most of us need to understand. So, talking about the boom, maybe we need to talk about why its boom is going to come, and why it can be a good thing for us.
Spoiler alert, it might grow into a multibillion industry in less than a decade.
The Environmental Impact Of Seaweed
Seaweed, even though looks like a boring organism since it cannot grow into an aesthetic plant, is actually one of the best soldiers from the ocean. United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted a study about it and discovered this fact:
Marine algae, including the seaweed we know in any species, contributes to 50% to 80% of the world’s total oxygen supply. Imagine a world without them, will this planet even become a habitable planet for any organism?
Not only that, it is also known as one of the biggest absorbers and storage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It shows that this marine plant is not only helping in making this planet a habitable one, but also helps in maintaining it as a habitable one.
In its environment, seaweed species including kelps provide important nursery habitat for marine creatures. Its gentle yet strong fiber can protect smaller creatures from bigger predators that do not want to get tangled by seaweed.
Not only that, seaweed is also the favorite food for a lot of marine creatures. Sea urchins are known as kelp eaters, that even in one incident when purple urchin population boomed in California, a large kelp forest was destroyed. Those are just pieces of the whole cake, since seaweed has a lot of species with their own distinctive functions.
Not only for animals, we all know that we can eat it too. in fact, seaweed is favored in many places all around the world, especially in Asia where we all know that it is commonly used as one of sushi’s ingredients.
Nori, the dried seaweed used in sushi, can also be eaten in other means. Don’t you know that rice sprinkled with nori flakes is delicious, nutritious, and energizing enough breakfast meal? Japanese people also know onigiri, rice balls that are made of rice and a sheet of nori or dried version of it.
In the last 5 years, dried seaweed’s popularity has been increasing steeply. Not only as basic ingredients for meals, it is also known as a healthy snack that kids to elderlies like to eat. Not only it tastes good, it also contains a lot of nutrients.
But before the increasing trend of nori as ingredient and snack, in fact seaweed-based food has been distributed and consumed daily around us. Not as dried seaweed or seaweed flakes, but it is consumed in the form of agar.
Agar has jelly-like consistency, which makes it favorited by children. Not only that, agar is also a famous ingredient in making desserts, beverages, and bakery. Its glass-like appearance attracts a lot of ideas for food creation.
Seaweed As Multibillion Industry
Saying that seaweed is going to be the next multimillion industry is underestimating its presence. It has been a multimillion industry worldwide because seaweed has a lot of functions that have been made use of since ancient times.
More than just as food source, humans have used seaweed as medicine, cosmetic, feeder, fertilizer, adhesives, gels, even an ingredient of explosives. All of those things have been done since millenniums ago, and we are still doing it now.
Roughly, all of those things have put multimillion industry tag on seaweed. But what makes seaweed has the potentials to become a multibillion industry? The answer is when its environmental benefits are combined with its benefits to us.
According to Global Market Insights, a research firm, seaweed global market is predicted to surpass the value of $85 billion in 5 years. That’s a great number, and reaching it is not easy. However, with the potentials that seaweed has, it is highly possible.
Since it can be used in a lot of things, and our industrial growth (including environmentally aware industry) is so rapid nowadays, the demand for raw seaweed is almost certain to grow. It is predicted that the growth spurt will happen in this decade.
The Multibillion Realization
Well then, what makes the boom is predicted to happen soon? The answer is each of those factors mentioned above. But more than just all of those factors individually, all of them are combined with its natural importance on the environment.
Seaweed harvested naturally from the nature cannot give certainty, while farmed seaweed can be destructive to the environment. But if we can farm it in a way that it also helps the nature, it would be a good thing.
One of the methods that can be used is regenerative ocean farming. It allows the marine plant functions naturally as it is, but the final product can be harvested responsibly in an amount will still allow it to regenerate after the harvest.
“Regenerative ocean farming is growing crops that breathe life back into the ocean. No freshwater, no fertilizer, no feed makes it the most sustainable food on the planet. But at the same time, our crops soak up carbon, nitrogen, rebuild reef systems. So, they really become engines of restoration as we’re farming and try to make a living,” Bren Smith, seaweed farmer told CNBC.