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Seaweed aquaculture can be combined with North Sea offshore wind farming to cover 1 million hectares by 2040 and reduce millions of tonnes of CO2 annually. That’s the vision outlined by Amazon as it invests €1.5 million in the North Sea Farm 1 project, which it says will be operational by the end of 2023.

Taking advantage of previously empty space between turbines, the project aims to expand the cultivation of seaweed in the otherwise crowded North Sea. Led by North Sea Farmers (NSF) in a consortium which includes marine contractors Van Oord and seaweed extract manufacturers Algaia, the venture is planned as a 25+ year operation. The farm will be located in the Dutch part of the North Sea, and is scheduled to be installed and seeded by autumn of this year. The first harvest is expected in Spring 2024.

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Seaweed’s role in sustainability

Amazon’s Right Now Climate fund provided the investment for the project’s innovation phase, during which NSF intends not only to produce seaweed but also process it into products for European markets. The funding also enables research into the carbon capture potential of seaweed farms during the first operational year.

“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,” said Zak Watts, Amazon’s Director EU Sustainability. “We’re delighted to fund this project to help us reach a greater understanding of its ability to help fight climate change.”

Job creation in the seaweed sector

The benefits are not limited to sustainable aquaculture, but also include job creation. Eef Brouwers, Manager of Farming and Technology at NSF, said: “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, re-purposing 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.”

Investing in seaweed aquaculture may also make economic sense, as the seaweed protein market is expected to grow by 14.1% to reach USD 1131 million by 2027. In addition to providing ingredients for food, seaweed can also be used to replace plastics in a wide range of consumer products.

Roeland Donker, Country Manager, Amazon Netherlands, said: “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. 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.”

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About North Sea Farmers

North Sea Farmers (NSF) is an independent and not-for-profit sector organisation for the European seaweed industry. By enabling their members to become successful with their seaweed ambitions NSF hope to shape an innovative and prosperous sector in Europe. 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. NSF’s activities are mainly focused on, but not limited to, the North Sea.

Led by NSF, The North Sea Farm 1 project consortium consists of Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Deltares, Silvestrum Climate Associates, in addition to Van Oord and Algaia.

About Amazon’s Right Now Climate Fund

In September 2021, Amazon announced it will invest €20 million from its $100m Right Now Climate Fund in projects across Europe that support nature-based projects which provide environmental benefits such as climate change mitigation and biodiversity restoration, as well as social benefits from job creation to access to nature.

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