Sustainable mechanisation concepts for the seaweed market

Andrina Drost
Andrina Drost
02 November 2017

IHC has been executing a research project in the seaweed farming. Seaweed farming is not our core market, but in essence, it is a maritime activity that is likely to require dedicated mission equipment in the future. 

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 have developed proof-of-concept harvesting and seeding machine prototypes. These could enable seaweed producers to significantly increase their output. 

First prototype harvesting machine
In cooperation with Vuyk Engineering Rotterdam, we successfully designed and built the first prototype harvesting machine in a 20ft container. This was capable of gathering six tonnes of seaweed an hour and was tested in May 2016 on a two-hectare farm in Solund, Norway, with promising initial results. 

A smaller, more compact harvesting machine was created, which will support farmers working in Western Europe. We also developed a prototype seeding machine, because this is the second most labour-intensive task for farmers. 

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

Award winning project
This project has received recognition for its potential to positively impact on 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).

At the current time, the seaweed market is not a core focus for IHC, so we’re not planning any further technological or product development. However, we would welcome interest in our harvesting and seeding concepts from third-parties keen to develop it further through a paid R&D project. We would also consider an ‘in kind’ exchange as part of a serious and well-funded seaweed venture.