Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Seaweed cultivation recognized by UN as one of Sustainable Development Goals


Seaweed cultivation recognized by UN as one of Sustainable Development Goals
In terms of nicknames, marine algae got the short end of the stick. The informal term "seaweed" connotes an unwelcome pest. If you've only seen it as a drying clump on the beach or a slimy surprise in the waves, it may appear to be one. Under the surface, however, "seaweed" hides a dazzling array of creatures: the billion-year-old ancestor of all plants, the source of half of the world's oxygen, and a key player in the future of global food production, microbiology, and medicine.

Seaweed cultivation is recognized by the United Nations as one of its Sustainable Development Goals: It is a good source of protein, vitamins, and iron as a food, and crops that aren't grown for food can be excellent carbon dioxide and pollutant absorbers, reducing ocean acidification and capturing greenhouse gases. Certain compounds extracted from it, such as carrageenan and agar, have numerous additional scientific applications, ranging from a growth medium for other microorganisms to a vegan substitute for gelatin in desserts. However, some of the regions with the most seaweed biomass, such as Brazil, with its 8000 kilometers of coastline, have yet to fully realize this potential.

The ability of the Brazilian aquaculture industry to grow is hampered by a lack of genetic sequencing data from relevant seaweeds, particularly elkhorn sea moss, or Kappaphycus alvarezii. The Brazilian Consortium for Phycogenomics (BCP), on the other hand, is determined to change that.

Researchers from SENAI CETIQT in Rio de Janeiro, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, So Paulo State University, and seven other universities and companies formed the nonprofit project in 2021; it's also making progress in a research collaboration between Scott Fahrenkrug at biotechnology research firm Forjazul and Michael Roleda at the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines, where K. alvarezii farming first began.

“The phycogenomics project has a special place in my heart,” said Rodrigo Cano, business analyst at SENAI CETIQT and project manager for BCP.

“We can see a clear path from sequence data to the development of new cultivars and informed management strategies that will directly impact small stakeholders that produce most of the seaweed in Brazil.”

SENAI CETIQT was named the latest recipient of Illumina's Agricultural Greater Good Initiative grant this week at the Plant and Animal Genome conference in San Diego. The award has been given annually since 2011 to projects that support research into food security and sustainability. The grant will allow BCP to create and make public a high-quality genome sequence of K. alvarezii. The consortium will collect trillions of base pairs of transcriptome data for it and other seaweeds using an Illumina NextSeq sequencer, probing the protists to learn how they grow and synthesize their useful biomolecules.

K. alvarezii is a model organism for phycogenomics on its own, and understanding its biostimulants and carbon sequestration mechanisms could help environmental efforts and farmers worldwide.

"Molecular genetic methods can be used to find and protect genetic diversity, and in the face of changing climate conditions, can contribute to the sustainability and resilience of seaweed production, as well as enable strategies to leverage its already tremendous capacity for fixing carbon for the global blue economy," said Fahrenkrug .

One of the tree of life's oldest branches holds the key to humanity's future. Keep that in mind the next time you eat sushi.