Amazon enters seaweed farming with North Sea project

Location of the amazon funded seaweed farm

Amazon is taking a direct step into mariculture with a plan to farm seaweed in between wind turbines positioned in the North Sea.

The European arm of Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.-based tech giant Amazon has allocated EUR 1.5 million (USD 1.5 million) from its USD 100 million (EUR 94 million) Right Now Climate Fund to the world’s first commercial seaweed farm to be located inside a wind farm. 

The project, known as North Sea Farm 1, is located off the coast of the Netherlands. Amazon hopes to cultivate 10 hectares of acreage and produce at least 6,000 kilograms of seaweed in its first year, with plans to expand beyond that in future years. The farm is expected to become operational by the end of 2023.

"Seaweed could be a key tool in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, yet it’s currently farmed at a relatively small scale in Europe,” Amazon E.U. Director of Sustainability Zak Watts said. “We're delighted to fund this project to help us reach a greater understanding of its ability to help fight climate change.”

Amazon said it will be testing and improving seaweed farming methods to further enhance research and development of carbon sequestration through seaweed farming. The process involves capturing, removing, and sorting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Amazon said it chose to develop the space between offshore wind turbines as a means of better utilizing space in a crowded marine environment.

"By locating the farm in previously empty space between turbines, the project is able to expand seaweed cultivation in the otherwise heavily used North Sea," it said. " If seaweed farming were to expand to occupy the entire space occupied by wind farms, expected to be approximately 1 million hectares by 2040, it could reduce millions of tons of CO2 annually."

Amazon Netherlands Manager Roeland Donker said the project is expected to have a net negative carbon impact while also creating sustainable products.

"Like trees, as seaweed grows it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, and it can be used to create biodegradable packaging, as well as food and fashion products," he said. "We’re hugely excited to be investing in such an important project off the coast of the Netherlands, which could significantly boost Europe’s seaweed sector.”

The project will be managed by a consortium of scientific researchers and partners from the seaweed industry, led by Den Haag, Netherlands-based nonprofit North Sea Farmers (NSF).  With 100 partners, NSF "works in the entire seaweed value chain and facilitates knowledge exchange on sustainable seaweed cultivation, production, marketing, education, policies and research, and facilitates joint innovation projects."

North Sea Farmers Manager of Farming and Technology Eef Brouwers said NSF hopes the project becomes a model of sustainable development for the entire seafood and wind energy industries.

As an added bonus, he expects North Sea Farm 1 and subsequent projects provide a significant employment boost to the areas where they are developed.

“Potentially, up to 85,000 full-time jobs could be created in the European seaweed sector by replicating North Sea Farm 1 across the North Sea, repurposing the space amongst wind farms. These jobs would not only be in the farming process but also in the production and sales of seaweed-based products,” Brouwers said.

Photo courtesy of Amazon


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