Australia's seaweed industry now has a unified voice, as the Australian Sustainable Seaweed Alliance (ASSA) officially launched in Canberra this month.
As the country's first peak body for the commercial seaweed industry, the newly-formed ASSA aims to drive forward environmentally-responsible seaweed farming and production, together with strategic research and development, and commercialisation of biotechnology and scientific results.
Founded by partners CH4 Global, the University of Tasmania, FutureFeed and the Australian Seaweed Institute, its first ten corporate members include AusKelp, CleanEyre Global, Fremantle Seaweed, Harvest Road, Pacific Bio, Tassal and recent global Earthshot Prize 2023 finalist, Sea Forest.
One of the main focus areas for the new peak body is "fast tracking methane emission-reducing Asparagopsis (red seaweed) production to help meet the Australian Government’s important emissions reduction targets," ASSA said in its launch announcement.
The new trade body has an ambitious vision, claiming Australia's seaweed industry "is on target for rapid growth", expected to see up to AUS $100 million GVP (Gross Value of Production) as well as the creation of 1,200 direct jobs in regional and coastal communities over the coming years.
This expansion, ASSA chair Jo Kelly predicts, has the potential to achieve even more. She forecasts the industry will be worth AUS $1.5 billion industry by 2040, creating 9,000 jobs.
“ASSA’s mission is to scale up environmentally responsible commercial farming of seaweed to provide food, feed and bioproducts. Development of seaweed cultivation at scale is the single biggest opportunity for rapid industry growth and optimising social and environmental outcomes,” Kelly said.
The Australian Government is supporting scale-up of seaweed cultivation, particularly for livestock feed in a bid to reduce the country's methane emissions. It has committed $8 million to the Developing Australia’s Seaweed Farming Program, which includes support for ASSA.
Key focus areas for the program, delivered by Australia's Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) are R&D, biosecurity and development of a national hatchery network, while competitive government grants and investment are also on the table to accelerate growth of the industry.
“Given the right policy settings, Australia is exceptionally well-placed to play a leading role in this economically significant and environmentally sustainable major global scale up,” said ASSA’s inaugural General Manager, Lindsay Hermes.
“A recent World Bank Report found that over the short and medium term, some of the most promising new segments for this sector include biostimulants, nutritional supplements, bioplastics, fabrics and importantly, methane-reducing livestock additives," Hermes added.