Nor­way has got sea­weed fever

"In May this year NRK described seaweeds as a miracle food, cookbooks were published with seaweed as the main ingredients in both Norway and Denmark, and chef Ørjan Johannsen served a six course dinner at Bekkjarvik where seaweed was included in every one of them. The best restaurants in Oslo and Trondheim also threw themselves on the algae wave while forecasts from SINTEF reveal a new aquaculture industry which shall grow to a value of 40 billion NOK by 2050. Norway has got seaweed fever."

"Outermost on the Trøndelag coast, in the archipelago of Frøya lies Norway’s and Northern Europe's largest seaweed cultivation farm. This year's harvest of kelp is just finished and resulted in 25 tons processed biomass, ready for distribution. Seaweed Energy Solutions AS, spearheaded by founder Pål Bakken, started with kelp cultivation already in 2006. Bakken had worked many years in Japan where macroalgae cultivation is a huge industry, and he was determined on realizing kelp cultivation in Norway based on the pure waters and lush kelp forests on Trøndelag’s coast. At the time, the focus of both scientists and industry was to develop large-scale seaweed farming with bio-ethanol as an end product. Since then there has been a growing interest in kelp for high value markets, which has led seaweed growers such as Seaweed Energy Solutions, Seaweed AS and Austevoll Seaweed Farm, to working today more towards the production of seaweed for applications such as foods, cosmetics and salmon feed."

"At a time when the competition for the world’s natural resources is constantly increasing and the green shift is on everyone's lips, we see that interest in seaweed cultivation is increasing. There are a number of new players in the field over the past two years, which has resulted in the Ministry of Fisheries giving permission to cultivate seaweed in 30 localities in Norway. Four of these sites are for onshore production of seedlings, while twenty-six are marine sites. These approvals encompass 10 species, although so far only sugarkelp (S. latissima) and winged kelp (Alaria esculenta) are grown in seafarms. Seaweed growers currently consists of 12 companies and 4 research and educational institutions, scattered from Rogaland in the south to Lofoten in the north, and applications are at the same time coming from areas south, east and west of existing concessions."

"There is a need for a sustainable expansion of food production in the sea, and seaweed cultivation can help do just that. In the farming of seaweed there is no need for fresh water, no land use conflicts and no added fertilizers. In addition, the biomass grows extremely fast. Small seedlings put into the sea in January around 1 cm are ready for harvest in just four months. Plants are then one meter long on average and perfect for human consumption. Waiting one more month allows the plants to double in length, but the quality for human consumption decreases because of fouling organisms that settle on kelp blades. This biomass can however be used for more industrial purposes such as feed and fertilizer."

"Research from SINTEF has shown that when cultivating kelp in close proximity to a salmon farm, the plant grows significantly more. This is because nitrogen emissions from salmon farming is the optimum nitrogen source for kelp growth. Macroalgae binds CO2 and reuses emissions from salmon farming, hence seaweed production can help to increase the sustainability of Norwegian farmed salmon while at the same time producing nutritious food with a production cycle of less than half a year. According to FAO the global production of macroalgae is around 30 million tons per year with an annual growth of 5-10%. For comparison, the global production of Atlantic salmon is just over 2 million tons per year. Eastern and southeastern Asia are the main producers of algae globally, and the biomass is used primarily for human consumption. The total market value is about 8 billion dollars per year. European seaweed growers have a job to do before they constitute a visible percentage of this huge aquaculture industry. Compared to Asia we have barely begun."

"There is enough biological knowledge to cultivate seaweed in large scale, and work is ongoing with technology development and markets so that the industry can meet the promising future forecasts SINTEF draw. Japan and China have cultivated algae for food for centuries. Traditionally seaweeds have been cultivated together with other species in polyculture, by clearing stones so that kelp spores could attach themselves to the substrate, at a time growers knew that spores were naturally present in the sea. The first cultivation of kelp on artificial substrate was in 1952, and is often referred to as the start of scientific aquaculture in China. Since then, China has evolved to become the largest seaweed producer in the world and now accounts for over 60% of global production. The last decade has seen an increasing interest in algae in the West. Maybe the interest came with sushi entering into the Norwegian market, or perhaps it is currently a trend for a blue revolution in the Norwegian cuisine? In autumn 2015 when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver began to showcase kelp as health food with weight-reducing effects, there was a surge in interest. Sales went up by 125% in the UK, while research institutions and entrepreneurs in Europe are working hard to set up a new, exciting industry."

"Lately different actors have been working to promote seaweed as food. Most high-end restaurant kitchens have attempted to work with algae in 2016. In Smalhans in Oslo or Credo in Trondheim you will find various algae species on the menu. Restaurant and food students in Frøya high school have also thrown themselves into this food trend. In April, they organized the first session in a series of workshops where the focus is on algae as food. Inspiration comes from cooperation with Korea, and there are indications that macroalgae in the future could constitute part of the diet in the younger generation. In Oslo, Zoe Christiansen from the firm The Northern Company has worked with sales, product development and dissemination around algae for food for many years. Recently, she published the cookbook “Tang og Tare, et hav av mat” (meaning "Seaweeds, an ocean of food”) and gives regular cooking classes with seaweeds as a key ingredient. In the firm's online store it is possible to buy what you need to get started. The hope is that kelp slowly but surely may become a natural ingredient in the Norwegian daily diet."

"Kelp biomass is a wonderful commodity. As with wood, it can be refined to various components which are sought after for cosmetics, bioplastics, pharmaceuticals and health foods. Another focus researchers have for the future is to produce sustainable feed ingredients for aquaculture. Foods of Norway is a center for research-driven innovation by NMBU, researching the use of seaweed as an ingredient in salmon feed. Research is conducted on adding kelp meal directly in feed, while at the same time, protein and bioactive substances can be refined from seaweed biomass, which should have beneficial effects on the health of the salmon. The World needs food, and it has been said that the ‘blue field’, which the sea certainly is, must be used towards more integrated food production. Seaweed farming can increase likely profitability and sustainability of Norwegian salmon farming while creating room for new farming adventures along our long, fruitful coastline."

"Recipe from Restaurant and food lab in Frøya high school: Alaria Pesto (‘Butarepesto’)"

85 g parmesan

2 garlic cloves (large)

35 g almonds

4 dl olive oil

50-75 g rinsed Alaria seaweed

1/3 pot parsley

season with salt and pepper.

  • If using fresh kelp you must ‘blanch’ the kelp quickly in salt water before use. All water must be removed (with a salad spinner or kitchen paper) before use.
  • If using kelp that is blanched and dried then it must be soaked in fresh water before use.
  • How much kelp to use is a matter of taste (both taste and texture is affected by the amount of kelp used)
  • Put all ingredients in a blender or use a wand mixer for blending the pesto.
  • Season with salt and pepper

"The pesto fits well as sauce for roast salmon and pasta, or as an accessory to good bread. The recipe serves 4 people. If the pesto is for bread, the recipe can be halved. Just use your imagination, the possibilities are endless!"

(translated from original article)

Article (in Norwegian): Norge har fått tarefeber