Scarborough Council is set to give its backing to a plan to establish England’s first commercial seaweed hatchery in the waters off the town’s coast.
The council’s cabinet is being asked to act as an accountable body for a £472,150 grant from the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF) to SeaGrown Limited.
The Scarborough-based company has licensed a 25-hectare site three miles off the town, which is clear of shipping and otherwise unused in which to grow and harvest seaweed on sunken platforms.
A network of buoys and chains will be anchored there, and the plants grown on submerged lines.
By 2021 the project aims to introduce UK (Scarborough) farmed seaweed into new markets such as bioplastics, biotextiles and pharmaceutical products.
The company has been founded by Wave Crookes, a former Scarborough fisherman and his partner, Laura Robinson, a marine scientist.
Mr Crookes told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that it had been hoped the first seaweed lines would have been in the water by now.
He said: “The project needs the council to sign on as an accountable body for the funding but due to the local elections and the changes with the council it has led to a delay.
“We’d hoped to start in May but now it’s looking like August. It’s not ideal but it has allowed us to get on with some things in the background.”
SeaGrown is hoping to create nine direct jobs in the first two years of the project rising to 23 direct jobs within five years, plus many more indirect jobs anticipated within the supply chain.
A report, which will go before the council’s cabinet on Tuesday (18th), sets out what will happen to the seaweed once it has been grown out at sea.
It states that there will be transhipping of the seaweed “to and from the site and Scarborough Harbour via small workboats, for the manufacture and distribution of the product at an inland processing facility within the borough”.
It adds: “[There will also be] the establishment of a product research and public information and outreach facility on board a dedicated vessel moored within Scarborough Harbour.”
The global market for seaweed was estimated to be worth around $12bn in 2015 and by 2024 it is predicted to have grown to in excess of $87bn, down to the increase in the numbers vegetarians and vegans and new uses being found for the plant.