A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION FOR SEAWEED PRODUCERS

Bernardete Goncalves Castro
Bernardete Goncalves Castro
02 November 2017

IHC is at the forefront of an exciting sustainable development in the seaweed farming industry. It might seem beyond our core markets, but in essence, it is a maritime activity that requires dedicated mission equipment. 

Seaweed is a promising and versatile biomass, that can contribute to food and energy security in the future. It has many applications and is also highly sustainable. 

By using our maritime knowledge and engineering expertise, we are developing harvesting and seeding machines that will enable seaweed producers to significantly upscale their activities and meet rising global demand. 

An effective prototype
In cooperation with Vuyk Engineering Rotterdam, we successfully built a first prototype machine in a 20ft container, which was capable of harvesting six tonnes of seaweed an hour. This prototype was tested in May 2016 on a two-hectare farm in Solund, Norway. 

We were delighted with the initial results. A smaller compact machine was later created, which will support farmers working in Western Europe. We also developed seeding machines, because seeding is the second most labour-intensive task for farmers. 

Our aim is to significantly decrease the time it takes – and the need – to handle seaweed, in order to achieve a reduction in labour costs of about 50%. This is the key to commercial viability in western markets.

IHC’s objective is to enter the market using a rental model, which has numerous advantages. It will enable us to be more involved with customers in the operational phase and learn more about the process. 

Focus on the global market 
The prototype was developed within budget for what a farmer could afford. Its success is highlighted by the fact that farmers wanted to buy it, even at this early stage. IHC is now taking the first steps towards Asia, where the larger seaweed producers are established.

This project has already received recognition for its potential to positively impact climate change. In December 2016, we were awarded the Mobilising More (MoMo) prize of €30,000 from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The prize will enable us to fine-tune our business proposition in Indonesia and establish long-standing relations there. Ultimately, we want to focus on the global market and collaborate with large-scale seaweed cultivators.

Remarkable progress 
The Western market is very small, but growing fast. In three to five years, we believe there will be a visible market and one that will be interesting for IHC. It’s an exciting time for the project, and the speed of progress to date has been remarkable.

It also highlights IHC’s commitment to developing sustainable solutions, and how we are extending our reputation beyond our core markets.