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Methane-reduction priority for seaweed hatchery network


A hand holding a frond of red Asparagopsis seaweed which is floating up from the sandy ocean floor.
Asparagopsis will be the initial focus of the new national seaweed hatchery network. Photo: ASSA

The peak body for Australia’s commercial seaweed sector is leading a national hatchery network initiative to accelerate production of the methane-reducing red seaweed Asparagopsis.


After securing a share of $8 million in federal funding to help develop Asparagopsis seaweed farming, the Australian Sustainable Seaweed Alliance (ASSA) is scaling up its operations and industry advocacy, leading with a new national hatchery network.


Asparagopsis is a priority for the Australian Government, for its ability to reduce methane emissions from livestock by up to 90% when used as a stock feed supplement. Most of Australia’s agricultural greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock, and feed supplements could make a major contribution to Australia’s greenhouse gas emission targets.


ASSA chair Jo Kelly says the federal funding has allowed the organisation to build its team to plan and coordinate research and development, biosecurity and the development of the national hatchery network.


ASSA team expands


The ASSA team now includes its first general manager, Lindsay Hermes – an experienced former federal ministerial adviser and senior tourism industry advocate – to lead the new group.


ASSA has also recently hired research and development project manager Dr Michael Li, and national hatchery network manager Dr Margie Rule, both experienced marine scientists.


Jo says further specialist technical talent to be appointed will further boost the team, specifically focused on developing the hatchery network to produce quality seedstock for Asparagopsis farming.


From left, ASSA chair Jo Kelly, general manager Lindsay Hermes and research and development manager Michael Li.

 

The hatchery network will begin with two hubs focused on Asparagopsis production. However, Jo believes the network will provide the framework to support the propagation and farming of other seaweed species.


ASSA represents 10 corporate members across six states, who are involved in farming diverse seaweed species. The peak body was established to advance environmentally responsible farming and production, strategic research and development, and scientific and biotech-related commercialisation.


Founding partners are CH4 Global, the University of Tasmania, FutureFeed and the Australian Seaweed Institute. Other members include AusKelp, CleanEyre Global, Fremantle Seaweed, Harvest Road, Pacific Bio, Tassal and recent global Earthshot Prize 2023 finalist Sea Forest.


“ASSA’s mission is to scale up environmentally responsible commercial farming of seaweed to provide food, feed and bioproducts,” says Jo. “Development of seaweed cultivation at scale is the single biggest opportunity for rapid industry growth and optimising social and environmental outcomes.


“We’re keen to have other members join the alliance, to strengthen our voice and accelerate the industry as a whole,” says Jo Kelly.

The emerging industry is on target for rapid growth, with ASSA’s Australian Seaweed Industry Blueprint forecasting $100 million GVP (Gross Value of Production) and the creation of 1200 direct jobs in regional and coastal communities in the coming years. This will lay the foundations for a potential major $1.5 billion industry set to create 9,000 jobs by 2040.


Policy and funding support


Jo believes the seaweed industry could make a sizeable contribution to the goals of the National Aquaculture Strategy and support Australia’s post-COVID economic recovery, as well as contributing to climate mitigation and greenhouse gas targets.


However, it needs adequate research and development investment to support this and that is where the $8m grant comes into play.


Alongside ASSA, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) is administering the ‘Developing Australia’s Seaweed Farming Program on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (DAFF). ASSA and the FRDC are working closely together within this dedicated program to strategically invest the $8m grant across key focus areas.


Looking to the future, ASSA general manager Lindsay Hermes says that this program is just the start of a multi-year upward trajectory for the industry.


“Given the right policy settings and support, Australia is exceptionally well-placed to play a leading role in scaling up this economically significant and environmentally sustainable sector.


“A recent World Bank Report painted a promising picture for the global seaweed sector. It found that over the short and medium term, some of the most valuable market segments include biostimulants, nutritional supplements, bioplastics, fabrics and, importantly, methane-reducing livestock additives,” says Lindsay.


“A growing seaweed industry will help the environment, employ young professionals including in regional areas, grow the economy, and support governments to achieve their important net zero emissions targets. It’s a win-win scenario for the future of Australia.”


To find out more about ASSA visit www.seaweedalliance.org.au





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