1. What are the objectives of NSF1?

To start the first commercial demonstration of an integrated seaweed company based on sustainable and nature-inclusive seaweed production in an offshore wind farm. We hope this will kick-start large scale seaweed farming across the Greater North Sea region by showing that: 

  • it’s technically possible; 

  • the sector can organise itself; 

  • there is a market for products made with locally cultivated seaweeds. 

We hope to inspire other people, entrepreneurs and companies to start their own seaweed companies based on the model that will develop and validated in NSF#1. We also hope to motivate policy makers to create the right conditions for this industry to grow and investors to step in and finance these type of projects. 

2. Where is North Sea Farm 1 and can I visit it?

North Sea Farm 1 will be located in a wind farm in the Dutch part of the North Sea, either in the Borssele or Hollandse Kust Zuid wind zone. These are newer wind farms with larger turbines and thus greater distance between the turbines. This leaves more space for seaweed farms and other forms of multi-use. 

3. What do you mean with commercial-scale?

In the Greater North Sea Region, offshore seaweed cultivation has only be done in the form of research pilots. Where each pilot is of course trying address specific questions or challenges. Nevertheless, we also need start with offshore seaweed farming as a commercial activity. To understand what makes a viable and scalable business model, what the impacts are on the environment etc. That’s what we mean with commercial-scale and that’s what will we do in North Sea Farm#1. In that sense it’s a demonstration of what a commerically operated seaweed company (farm including the onshore processsing activities) could look like on our immediate future. For the scaling steps, see the project page or other FAQs 

4. It starts with a harvest of 6,000kg, isn't that much?

In relation to the current global and European seaweed production figures or even in relation to other (nearshore) farmers in Europe such as Ocean Rainforest or Dutch Seaweed Group (in the range of 100-300t per year), 6,000kg is not much for a seaweed harvest. But the 6,000kg is only for the first year. As a project we hope to secure additional funding for the 2nd and further years in which we intend to scale-up. Ultimately to a scale of 10,000t of fresh seaweed per year. We currently believe, this could be a commercially viable scale to enable an economically sustainble seaweed company. See also our FAQ on scaling.

5. What is the planning for  North Sea Farm#1?

For NSF#1 we are working on the basis of an approximate 25 year lifetime. But we will start with modest steps first. During the initial 5-year innovation phase we need to make it work. This includes:  

  • Robust and cost-effective seaweed growing systems with predictable yields 

  • Making and testing seaweed-based products 

  • Raising interest from policy makers and investors to create conditions for growth of the sector and NSF#1-like projects.  

Assuming that we will be successful enough on the above points, NSF#1 will be scaled to 400 growing systems that will occupy around 10km2 and produce 10,000t fresh seaweed each year as follows:  

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Innovation phase: 2023-2028 (5yrs) 

  • Pre-commercial, innovate towards break-even 

  • Scale from 2 – 30 seaweed growing systems 

First commercial phase: 2028-2035 (7yrs) 

  • Stepwise scale-up to 400 systems 

  • At least 10,000t of fresh seaweed/yr 

Second commercial phase: 2035-2042 (7yrs) 

  • Full scale operation, 400 systems 

  • At least 10,000t of fresh seaweed/yr 

  • Replacing systems after 7 yrs of operation 

Final commercial phase: (“42 - 7yrs) 

  • Stepwise scaling down to zero systems 

  • Remove systems as they reach end of life (7yrs) 

So we hope firstly that NSF#1 will be a successful project with many lessons learnt and that paves the way for the future of the industry. And secondly, we hope this will encourage many other people, companies, investors and markets to copy this concept and grow the European seaweed sector to the next phase.  

6. What types of seaweed will you produce?

We will start with sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima). This is an endemic species for our part of the North Sea, it is known how it can be cultivated and the high-quality spores can be bought from suppliers in the sector such as Hortimare. Perhaps in the future, other species will be possible as well.

7. What do you mean with vertically integrated seaweed company?

It means the company formed by the collaboration of different specialists within the value chain. The objective of this configuration is ensuring a fair share in risks and profits. Examples from the global coffee and cacao markets and also from local farmers show that the producers of the raw, unprocessed resource have a high risk but don’t necessarily get the best price for it. This is also a reality for many seaweed farmers around the world. Therefore, a vertically integrated company will incorporate various supply chain partners, where they can they each perform their core activity to the best of the ability, sharing risks and profits together.

8. Does seaweed capture carbon?

Yes it does! The main question to be answered though is 'for how long?’ Carbon capture is usually referred to as CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere  being taken out and not put back into it for a long time. An easy to understand example of this is the approach of climeworks but of course, growing trees in a forest that will remain there for a very long time is another example.

Seaweed also needs CO2 to grow and to this end absorbs dissolved CO2 in the sea water for this. If you use the seaweed in seaweed-based products, as we intend to do in the European seaweed sector, then the absorbed CO2 will be released back into the environment and not captured as described above.

However, we also suspect that while growing seaweed in a farm that quite some seaweed falls off due to the movements in the (sea) water. This seaweed, and its absorbed carbon, may end-up somewhere on the (deep) seafloor and stay there for a very long time. Whether this happens, to what extent and where this seaweed carbon actually ends-up, that is something that will be investigated as part of this project. This mechanism will be modelled in the most advanced North Sea model and we will also attempt to physically measure this effect on the North Sea, around the North Sea Farm#1 project locations. The outcomes of this research will hopefully shed more light on whether this mechanism exists and if it can be used for carbon capture.

9. Millions of tons of CO2 reduced annually? How did you get to this number? 

This is based on a few scenarios in which we assume a potential CO2 reduction and or avoidance. This is not calculated for the future production capacity of North Sea Farm#1 (10,000t when fully scaled) but rather for a scenario where the seaweed industry in the Greater North Sea Region produces between 1-10mln tons of fresh seaweed per year. We’ve looked into the following scenarios for the potential impact of seaweed farming or seaweed-based products on CO2 in the atmosphere:

·         Local seaweed used as feed additive for cows to reduce 20% of methane emissions in 1-2mln cows in The Netherlands and the Greater North Sea Region. It is assumed that an average cow emits 125kg methane (CH4) per year, where 1kg methane taken to be equivalent to 28kg CO2e.

·         Local seaweed used as biostimulant ingredient to reduce 5% of (gas-based) fertilizer use in Dutch Agriculture, based on the associated CO2- number from CBS

·         Carbon capture by means of seaweed farming where we currently assume an average of a currently scientifically hypothesised bandwidth of between 0.007-0.022tCO2/t seaweed-wet

1 0. What is the estimation of up to 85,000 potential full-time jobs based on?

This is a number that is taken from the report: Seaweed for Europe, hidden champion of the ocean. In this report a projection is given for FTE-development in 2030 for the “high ambition case”.

11. Are there already other seaweed initiatives in wind farms?

There are other initiatives but these are primarily research pilots. (for instance from European research project United). This is a commercial demonstrator seaweed farm. We want to show what a future seaweed company, based on large scale offshore cultivation, could look like. Vertically integrated to produce its own seaweed, process it into ingredients or end-products and sell them in the European markets.

12. How does seaweed enhance biodiversity?

The more than 15,000 seaweed species grow all over the world in salt water and are an important part of the marine ecosystem. Seaweeds are primary producers of food and energy and also provide habitat for marine life, protecting them from threats. Large seaweed species, such as kelp forests, also act as nurseries for fish and other marine animals. Farmed seaweed could also act as temporary habitat, providing both food and shelter, including seabed protection, for different aquatic organisms and therefore contributing to local biodiversity.

13. Amazon and North Sea Farm#1?

North Sea Farm#1 is a project initiated by the seaweed sector to setup a commercial demonstrator of a seaweed company based on production in an offshore wind farm. This project aims to evolve, over multiple years, into a blueprint for the seaweed sector. Thanks to the Amazon funding, we can start with the first year of this multi-year project plan. In addition, the funding enables research into the carbon capture potential seaweed farming during this first year. After that, North Sea Farm#1 will continue as a project in its own right, if the first year is successful and if additional funding can be found for these following years.