Macro algae is one of the world’s largest renewable biomasses. It’s potential for creating values is underutilized in the Nordic countries. Sustainability is a key concept for Nofima and therefore macro algae is one of the strategic focus areas.
In recent years, the strategic focus has been on cultivation, processing and extraction, especially from sugar kelp. Despite the great potential for value creation within this branch of the bioeconomy, there are still many challenges for the Norwegian seaweed industry. The most important challenges are lack of market knowledge and products adapted to the market, in addition to the fact that the industry is strongly seasonal and, thus, has capacity problems during processing.
The food industry and the kelp growers are concerned that the ingredients in the seaweed products are well documented and the monitoring of e.g. iodine, arsenic and cadmium become clear. Problems with high content of iodine and heavy metals are particularly large in sugar kelp, which is very popular with both the seaweed growers and the industry. We are therefore planning a post doc who will investigate the effect of process technology on the content of potentially hazardous substances in seaweeds, including iodine, cadmium, and arsenic. This is very important, as the food industry can become a major customer. For example, the fish food industry alone would use the entire national annual (2017) production of cultivated seaweeds if 15% of the fish food was added 4.7% seaweed.
Macro algae contain both functional and bioactive components that can be used as ingredients in the food industry. The specific cell wall structure is crucial for which method is optimal for extraction. Therefore, the extraction method must be adapted to each individual species. The bioactive components are very sensitive to heat and solvents. It is necessary to identify and develop new extraction processes that provide better yield and selectivity. Sustainable products that are safe to use in food must be made profitable.