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About the Project

Research Description

Beyond biofuel will discover new methods of cultivating seaweed specifically grown to produce high value products, while also harnessing their associated biofuels, thus, developing a novel circular economy model aligned with strategies identified to support our bioeconomy. 

The project will test empirically whether cultivated seaweed can protect other organisms from expected changes in ocean chemistry and we will simultaneously monitor the potential environmental effects of our seaweed cultivation methods. In addition, we will model the potential for the future growth of these activities nationally and test how these methods can be used to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of our changing climate, thus, facilitating our transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society. 

Why Cultivate Seaweed? 

Ireland has a long history of hand-harvesting seaweed, but this is not practical for commercial-scale extractions for biotechnology. Native seaweed, such as ‘kelp’, form an important habitat, sustaining many other species including other fisheries that are already under threat from climate change. It is, therefore, strongly advisable to cultivate seaweed for production rather than destruct natural habitat. This project will develop the next generation of seaweed cultivation and apply ecological principles to cultivate mixtures of seaweed species that not just enhance their total biomass but improve yields of the specific organic chemicals that can be harnessed. 

The biochemical composition of individual species differs seasonally and depending on their conditions for growth. This project will cultivate several seaweed species for bioengineering prospects as well as harnessing biofuels. We know little of the ecological effects of macroalgal cultivation and this study will test explicitly for potential impacts. 

Seaweed aquaculture offers vast opportunities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. ‘Blue Carbon’ strategies include mitigation via direct C sequestration, food production with reduced CO2 footprint, bioenergy production (substituting fossil fuels) and adaptation to: sea level rise and increased storminess (shoreline protection and wave dissipation), reduced risk of deoxygenation and ocean acidification (high daytime pH in seaweed may benefit calcifiers). 


Beyond biofuel