Seaweeds are marine macroscopic algae. At the NIOZ Seaweed Research Centre we investigate seaweed physiology and ecology, that is, how seaweeds function in their environment. For example, we study seaweed growth, uptake of nutrients, and their role as crop in a nursery. Seaweeds are a potential alternative for landplant biomass. They grow on saltwater, which covers 70% of the surface of our planet. Not only can seaweed cultivation be combined with other activities at sea, it also take up excess nutrients from coastal waters, thus reducing eutrophication. The fundamental scientific knowledge gained in the Seaweed Research Centre can be used for sustainable production of food and energy for the future.
How the NIOZ seaweed centre operates
The Seaweed Centre consists of 20-30 cultivation tanks of 2000 liters each. These tanks are specially designed for seaweed research. By means of aeration, turbulent conditions are created in the tanks, which keeps the seaweed in the tanks constantly moving. The tanks are fully insulated and are heated / cooled using earth heat. This guarantees a minimal energy requirement of the Seaweed Centre. Filtrated sea water from the Marsdiep and compressed air are supplied from a central pipe. Using lids, the light can be controlled in the tanks. The water that comes out of the tanks is cleaned via a biological seaweed filter (3 large concrete bins containing sea lettuce, Ulva lactuca) before it is pumped back into the Marsdiep.
Seaweed is an attractive source of biomass. Seaweed does not use precious freshwater, neither does it make claims on farmland. Seaweed grows on available nutrients from the sea (can even limit eutrophication), and it does not need pesticides during growth. This makes seaweed very suitable as a source of energy (sugars), food for human and / or animal (proteins) and high-quality components. As such, seaweed cultivation can make a significant contribution to the transition to a bio-based economy.
In the Seaweed Centre we work with knowledge institutions such as University of Groningen, Wageningen University (PRI), and more institutions for applied research such as ECN, TNO, WMR and Ecofys. We also intensively collaborate with Hortimare, the company that focuses on producing raw material for seaweed cultivation. It is envisaged that more collaborations with companies will be set up in the near future.
The Seaweed Centre is part of the Dutch initiative to develop the seaweed chain. For example, NIOZ is the independent supervisor of the Noordzeeboerderij Foundation, which manages a test site for seaweed cultivation on the North Sea. For marine biorefinery, the Zeewier Centre works with ECN.