The Sargassum Algae – A Curse or Blessing?
The Sargassum algae which grow in tropical seas are in principal a beneficial plant. Most species form Sargassum “forests” (tang forests) along the coast lines, which provide a special habitat for small crabs, worms and other marine animals. They also absorb huge amounts of CO2, often significantly more than a terrestrial forests of comparable size. The marine biologist Franziska Elmer has therefore also called them the “climate activists among the algae”(1).
In the last ten years, however, there has been an increased occurrence of Sargassum seaweed in the Atlantic. The occurrence increasingly became a plague, so that some islands even declared a state of emergency. At times, the brown algae carpet, which researchers call the “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt”, stretched from West Africa to the Caribbean and consisted of an estimated 20 million tonnes of seaweed. The cause is believed to be over-fertilisation and deforestation of the Amazon rainforests. In addition to the negative effects on island worlds dependent on tourism, the exuberant growth of algae can lead to death zones where no plants or animals live any more.
A student-led social enterprise which upcycles surplus algae into fertilizer
A team from the various universities in Munich has now developed and successfully piloted an idea within the Enactus network on how to resolve the situation in a positive way.
The surplus algae are collected and processed via a special process into a liquid biostimulant that is used in organic agriculture. The team is cooperating with the MIT start-up SOS Carbon, which is developing techniques to collect the Sargassum algae and activate it as a CO2 reservoir.
The pilot project is currently being implemented in the Dominican Republic. The bio-fertiliser is to be used primarily locally and offer small farmers and local cooperatives an effective and low-cost alternative or supplement to other fertilisers.
This is how SeaSoilution works:
SeaSoilution’s contribution to the 17 Global Goals
Life under Water
SeaSoilution removes algae in shallow waters where cause damage
Life on Land
SeaSoilution works with natural raw materials to produce a bio-stimulant for organic farming
Improved agricultural production for farmers in coastal regions
SeaSoilution develops solutions to bind the carbon bound in the Sargassum algae in the longer term
Sustainable Production and Consumption
The locally produced biostimulant helps to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers
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