Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Opportunities in sargassum seaweed being explored


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The acquisition of a seaweed harvester is yet another element in the country’s effort to address not only challenges posed by sargassum seaweed but opportunities as well.

This was intimated by consultant Mark Hill as he addressed today’s launch of the seaweed harvester by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, at the HMBS Pelican, Barbados Coast Guard.

Pointing out that the process was started since 2018 with its main emphasis on innovation and industry, Mr. Hill said efforts were also aimed at harvesting in order to use the seaweed for value-added purposes.

“We have focused on using it for the production of substrates for making various types of applications such as manufacturing of bio-composite materials, the production of bio-fuels, utilisation of seaweed and soil amendment and development for marine-based fertilizers, ocean-based composts and also to serve as a catalyst for marine bio-technology development,” he explained.

He also noted that over the past two years, the Ministry had been harvesting and engaging in real world application of the sargassum seaweed as a resource for increasing crop production and had also started applying the harvested seaweed.

“We have a number of teams, since 2019, that have harvested the seaweed. That seaweed would come to our demo lab in Portvale in St James and from there we’ve apply to crops in order to demonstrate the type of yield and increase in yield. It has been very, very successful and so seaweed that comes from this harvesting process would be applied to help innovate and to help build out industries. So it wouldn’t be going to the garbage.”

While stating that 2020 will also see the launch of a bio-fuel drive centred around the Ministry of Energy and the Barbados National Oil Company, Hill said the Blue Economy Ministry stood to play a critical role in this renewable space through providing the substrate for the type of bio-fuel.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Sonia Foster, noted that Barbados, like other countries in the Caribbean, continued to be impacted by the influx of sargassum seaweed along its east coast.

“It is projected that this phenomenon will continue to affect the country for many years to come. The level of influx reached a critical high in 2018, thus giving rise to a number of serious socio-ecological and economic concerns, particularly in the tourism industry and in the fisheries sector. This matter is considered a priority for the Ministry,” she said.

Foster noted that despite their best efforts to try to mitigate against the effects of this problem, with the engagement of young persons to assist in the cleanup campaign, it was realised that a more comprehensive approach should be taken, hence the acquisition of the seaweed harvester. (BGIS)


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