Green Living'Trailblazer' Tunisia excels Mediterranean in seaweed farming

‘Trailblazer’ Tunisia excels Mediterranean in seaweed farming

-

Bizarte, Tunisia: Wading knee-deep in the calm waters of a lagoon, workers in northern Tunisia harvest red seaweed, in a nation dubbed a Mediterranean “trailblazer” in cultivating the in-demand plant.

Red seaweed or algae is used for gelling, thickening, and texturing agents that are increasingly a substitute for animal-based products in processed foods, and it is also being used increasingly in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

The harvest, the Selt Marine company’s first on an industrial scale, comes after years of research and a wait of more than two decades for authorization to use the lagoons, said French-Tunisian entrepreneur Mounir Bouklout.

Several countries including nearby Morocco have seen their natural reserves of red seaweed diminish in recent years due to overexploitation.

Instead near Bizerte, north of the Tunisian capital, 10 percent of what is harvested goes back into the water, said Bouklout, another seaweed expert.

“We wait for nature to do its work, and after 45 days we harvest it,” Bouklout told AFP.

Surrounded by hills topped with wind turbines, workers pull seaweed growing around cylindrical netting from the lagoon and bring it to shore.

The plant matter, which ranges from green to dark red in colour, is separated, dried in the sun and taken to a factory to be turned into substances such as agar-agar.

The sought-after red variety is mainly grown in Asia, which is the world’s biggest producer, consumer and exporter of seaweed.

But Tunisia’s waters and climate also favor its farming, which can encourage the development of local marine life including shellfish.

Seaweed absorbs elements like nitrogen and phosphorous, so growing it is also a way of “naturally cleaning the lagoon”, Bouklout said.

‘Trailblazer’

He said the firm hoped to reap 500 tonnes of wet seaweed this harvest, with plans to rapidly expand the growing area in the coming years, eyeing a 3,500-tonne yield next year.

“Tunisia is a trailblazer” in cultivating seaweed in the Mediterranean, said Houssam Hamza, an aquaculture expert for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Selt Marine is the biggest grower of red seaweed in the region but also has expertise in “transforming the seaweed into different products” and adding value locally, he told AFP.

For 25-years, the business has been processing seaweed imported from Asia in the Tunis suburb of Ben Arous.

The plants are washed then heated to 90 degrees Celsius (194 Fahrenheit) to obtain a liquid that is pressed, dried and crushed into a fine white powder.

Mixed with other ingredients, it is used in dairy products, cold meats, confectionery and other foods for local, European, Turkish and Chinese companies, Bouklout said.

Its potential is being studied for products from biodegradable bottles to noodles and even meat-substitute vegetarian nuggets, said biologist Mariem Mouheddine, head of research and development.

The business employs around 100 people, according to Bouklout, and hopes to expand to 500 over the next two years, in a country struck by an economic crisis and skyrocketing unemployment even before the coronavirus pandemic.

FAO aquaculture expert Hamza said seaweed farming presented important opportunities for Tunisia.

He said there was still work to do, including in promoting innovation in the sector, but “it’s also our role (of the FAO) to stand beside Tunisia” and its young people.

AFP
AFP is a leading global news agency for comprehensive, verified coverage of events shaping the world.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest news

Swiss unanimously votes for same-sex union referendum

GENEVA — In Switzerland, a controversial same-sex marriage referendum has been resoundingly approved by voters of the conservative, rich Alpine...

New Covid surge overwhelms hospitals in parts of US

WASHINGTON, D.C. — According to one of the country's top health officials, the spike in coronavirus cases in the...

China wants effeminate male celebs to man up

WASHINGTON — Macho men are in and effeminate male performers are out as Beijing expands its crackdown on China's entertainment...

Billie Eilish, BTS to perform at climate change concert

Billie Eilish, BTS, and Elton John, among others, will donate their star power to Global Citizen Live on Saturday...

Google faces off EU in court over record $5.1 billion antitrust fine

This week, Google will face the European Commission in a five-day court hearing, appealing a record $5.1 billion fine...

WHO’s Covax misses 2021 target. What went wrong?

The latest supply forecast for Covax – the programme for sharing COVID-19 vaccines around the world – suggests that accelerating vaccination...

Must read

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you