The Belgian partners of the H2020-funded UNITED-project – namely Brevisco, Colruyt, Jan De Nul, Parkwind, Ghent University and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences – successfully harvested the seaweeds that had been growing in front of the Belgian coast since November 2020. 
The cultivation trial focuses on sugar kelp (Saccharina) a species that can be used for human consumption or for the extraction of valuable compounds such as alginates which are widely used in the food industry. As temperatures go up in late spring it is time to harvest the seaweed which does not tolerate high temperatures. Although seaweed has been farmed for several decades in Asia, and more recently also in Europe, seaweed cultivation typically takes place in sheltered locations. The southern North Sea with its strong currents and at times high wave action, however, presents a challenging environment for growing seaweed. In the project “UNITED” which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement 862915, researchers from Ghent University and BREVISCO, an aquaculture company from Ostend, investigate the feasibility to grow seaweed offshore in combination with windfarms. The seaweed cultivation complements efforts to assess the feasibility of cultivating European flat oysters (Ostrea edulis) in the Belgian part of the North Sea. If successful, offshore seaweed cultivation could offer several benefits toward sustainable food production and potentially contribute toward a carbon neutral economy.

The UNITED project made use of services offered through the EMBRC-BE partners Ghent University, VLIZ and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

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