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Seaweed cultivation recommended as a viable business opportunity in north Aberdeenshire

By David Porter

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Seaweed farming could be a potential business proposition
Seaweed farming could be a potential business proposition

A new study which examines the opportunities for seaweed cultivation on the North Aberdeenshire coast has recommended it as a financially-viable business opportunity.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Regeneration Team commissioned consultants Northern Light Consulting to investigate the potential for seaweed cultivation across a number of sites from Portsoy to Fraserburgh and determine the viable prospect of establishing a new industry along the coastline.

Seaweed cultivation is a rapidly-growing global market, with its derived products being used both for food consumption and an increasing range of commercial uses including cosmetics, packaging and animal feed supplements.

While there is a long tradition of harvesting wild seaweed in Scotland, opportunities are increasing for commercial-scale cultivation. Seaweed farms are already in operation on the West Coast, but the more exposed conditions on the East Coast have to-date deterred potential operators.

The published study provides a detailed investigation of the challenges and opportunities which exist and determines that the establishment of a seaweed farm is a technically and commercially-viable business prospect.

The range of factors considered included species selection, sea conditions, harvesting options, shore facilities, conflict with fishing operations, equipment and operators and routes to market.

Three offshore sites along the coastline have also been identified for a possible future trial.

Although processing capacity and the routes to market were considered as among the primary challenges for a prospective operation, a number of potential processing options and buyers were identified.

Aberdeenshire is also considered to be in a relatively strong position due to its existing agricultural and seafood supply chains.

An initial information session was held in June, with individual consultation carried out among stakeholders along the coastline including local inshore fishermen, potential operators, agricultural and seafood processing businesses and local communities.

The council team behind the study is now arranging a meeting of stakeholders and interested parties which will be held in Macduff.

Councillor Peter Argyle, chair of the Council’s infrastructure services committee, said: “It’s really heartening to hear that seaweed cultivation is not only technically feasible and commercially viable, but also a socially beneficial opportunity for the region.

"I am delighted to hear that our officers will be engaging further with potential partners and seeking grant funding with a view to carrying out a small-scale trial in order to validate the study outcomes.”

Christine Webster, regeneration and towns centres manager, said: “There continues to be real excitement across the local business community about the potential of seaweed cultivation in the north-east as it’s an opportunity which could really add value to our food and drink sector whilst also contributing to reducing carbon emissions in so many ways.”

Anyone interested in this opportunity should contact Jamie Wilkinson by email at Jamie.wilkinson@aberdeenshire.gov.uk or by calling 01467 537377.

You can view the published study here: http://publications.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/dataset/seaweed-cultivation-study

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