Impact 2014: Seaweed, mussels hold great promise

Marine biologist Peter Schmedes leans over the railing and grabs one of the lines in the waves off the coast of Juelsminde in Denmark.

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"Look how big they are already," he says of the dense garlands of brown sugarweed growing on thin cords in the water.

In the early spring, the seaweed grows quickly and, within a short period, Hjarno Havbrug, which owns this forest of seaweed, will be ready for its first major harvest to be sold for animal feed production.

Hjarno - Denmark's biggest seaweed producer - the agricultural sector and researchers see great potential in planting seaweed forests and building mussel farms in large maritime areas off the Danish coast.

Apart from cleansing the water of pollution, seaweed and mussels can be transformed into human food and animal feed - something that is sorely needed in a world of growing populations and a limited amount of agricultural land.

According to the Tangnet network of seaweed researchers and experts, by using just 1 per cent of its waters to grow seaweed, Denmark could generate some 10 billion kroner (S$2.2 billion), save 10,000 sq km of Brazilian rainforest and reduce Denmark's carbon dioxide emissions by 5 per cent.

The Danish Agricultural and Food Council's deputy chairman, Mr Lars Hvidtfeldt, says he hopes that Denmark will jump onto the "blue economy bandwagon".

DORRIT SAIETZ/POLITIKEN (DENMARK)