Seaweed: a future investment?

While their initial objectives differ, more and more scientists and financiers are coming together around a common discourse encouraging the cultivation of algae, particularly in Europe. Their union has the ultimate objective of convincing future project leaders so that the sector continues to develop.

Seaweed production has boomed. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, between 2010 and 2020, seaweed production volumes have doubled, exceeding 35 million tonnes a year. The market is estimated today at more than 5.7 billion euros worldwide.

But seaweed farming mainly comes from Asia, where production has long been established. There, its consumption as food is common, and the production volume is sufficiently constant for companies to be able to be continuously supplied from one year to the next.

Although the Asian example inspires Europe, the model envisaged by current stakeholders in the industry has its own identity. Vincent Doumeizel, oceans advisor to the United Nations (UN), believes that: “We must develop reasonable algaculture to avoid making the same mistakes in the sea as committed on land.” But Doumeizel, who is also director of agri-food programmes at the London Lloyd’s Register Foundation feels positive and recalls the importance of the ocean resource which “covers 70% of the surface of the globe and provides less than 3% of food needs in terms of calories.”

Encouraging investment

A proposal was made by the UN to companies for them to adopt rules encouraging a behavioural change in ecological and social terms. This is the Global Compact. Vincent Doumeizel, a media ambassador for seaweed for several months, is working on this proposal and says: “My mission is to rally the various stakeholders in the seaweed sector and launch projects to develop farming.”

He is the author of a book that was published in January entitled “The Seaweed Revolution” (Published by Hero Press). He also wrote the foreword of a report that was published last September entitled: “Seaweed as a nature-based climate solution”. This document is the fruit of joint research by university experts, company directors and non-governmental organisations, brought together to discuss and reflect on the potential of seaweed. As indicated by the report’s title, emphasis is placed on seaweed as a ‘carbon sink to mitigate climate change’.

Encouraging private initiatives

Another imitative presents the same arguments and comparable infographics. This is ‘Seaweed for Europe’, a group of diverse seaweed producing or processing companies, associations and financial institutions that primarily includes SYSTEMIQ, a London commercial strategy consultancy. Together, they have created a ‘toolbox’ website to encourage the setup of seaweed growers in Europe, promote capital investment and galvanise the industry.

This website is a beneficial initial step in exploring the seaweed industry. The resources available include infographics, market assessments, practical brochures and a memo for investors. On this website we also find a map indicating how long it takes to obtain specific licences in each country, and contrary to what one might think, obtaining a licence in France may be quite quick in comparison to other countries like Norway, Scotland, England or Ireland. While it takes longer than 8 months to obtain a licence in France (this minimum timeframe may be very variable depending on the procedures that need to be added), it takes between 18 and 24 months in other countries.

When reading these documents, everyone will be convinced of the benefit of investing massively in the ‘seaweed industry’ for ecological reasons (natural resource that makes many services ecosystemic), food reasons (a response to the demographic increase in the poorest coastal countries and the demand for local produce in the richest coastal countries) and social reasons (helping create jobs).

But beyond these laudable intentions, these sources are also pragmatic from the perspective of economic profitability. They detail the value chain, the level of commercial maturity and investments already made. We therefore learn that the overall amount invested in seaweed companies multiplied by 24 between 2010 and 2020, increasing from €900k a year in 2010 to more than €21.6M in 2020. Or that seaweed companies are still valued at relatively low prices in relation to comparable industries.
It remains to be seen whether these arguments will be heard by investors in years to come.

Source: S4E-InvestorMemo-MainReport-16OCTOBER2021.pdf (

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