According to a new World Bank report, 10 growing global seaweed industries might expand by up to $11.8 billion by 2030. The monetary value of seaweed stems from its potential to sink carbon, preserve marine biodiversity, employ women, and unleash value chains.

The Global Seaweed New and Emerging Markets Report 2023 investigates the commercial prospects for new high-growth seaweed market applications. The research provides information for entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers to ensure that the seaweed sector realizes its full potential today and in the future.

Nowadays, most farmed seaweed is either directly consumed by people or used as fresh feed in aquaculture. In the future, seaweed products may be used to replace fossil fuels in industries such as textiles and plastics, as well as to absorb carbon and create revenue for vulnerable coastal communities. There are numerous locations with enormous growth prospects because a small number of Asian countries produce 98 percent of the world’s farmed seaweed.

“Growth in seaweed farming across the world will depend on sharing technology and knowledge between policymakers, financing institutions, the scientific community, the private sector, producers, and processors, leaving no one behind. With women’s dominance in seaweed farming, the stage is set for catalyzing a truly global ‘she-weed’ revolution,” said Valerie Hickey, the World Bank Global Director for the Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy.

The report focuses on 10 relatively new and emerging seaweed applications that have the greatest market opportunities outside the established sectors. In the short-term, the most promising new markets are projected to reach $4.4 billion by 2030, including biostimulants, animal feed, pet foods, and methane-reducing additives. Medium-term opportunities, including nutritional supplements, alternative proteins, bioplastics, and fabrics, could reach a potential value of $6 billion. Long-term emerging markets are projected to reach $1.4 billion, for pharmaceuticals and construction materials, but with significant regulatory challenges and a high cost of product development.

“Seaweed farming demonstrates how development, climate, and nature work together to generate value and uplift communities. Seaweed farming will be a source of nutrition security as well as an alternative to synthetic fertilizer,” said Martien van Nieuwkoop, World Bank Global Director for Agriculture and Food. “The World Bank is committed to helping countries transform food systems towards better outcomes for people, the planet, and economies.”

To fully realize the seaweed market’s potential, the industry will need to overcome several key issues. The largest challenge is the availability of seaweed itself, due to limitations in volume, and consistency and quality of the supply. As more applications of seaweed are developed, pricing and regulatory barriers may also emerge.

Despite these challenges, the climate and environmental benefits of seaweed farming will help drive growth of potential emerging markets. As interest in “green” products continues to increase, many product developers have expressed a reliance on sustainability premiums to generate profits.

At a time when global resources are increasingly overstretched, it is particularly important that the world make the most of resources, such as seaweed, that can both be swiftly regenerated and potentially help to regenerate ecosystems.


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