Study lodges ‘enriched seaweed’ as the newest solution to the global food crisis

ISRAEL— Researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute (IOLR) have developed an innovative technology that they claim allows seaweed cultivators to plan in advance a production line of seaweed with a particularly high level of protein or minerals

The research was led under the guidance of Prof. Avigdor Abelson from the School of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences at Tel Aviv University and Prof. Alvaro Israel of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute (IOLR) in Tel Shikmona, Haifa.

In an article published in the scientific journal Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies​, the researchers explained that species of the algae UlvaGracilaria​ and Hypnea, ​local to Israel, were grown in close proximity to fish farming systems under different environmental conditions.

The special conditions significantly increased the growth rate, protein levels, healthy carbohydrates, and minerals in the seaweed’s tissues – making the “enriched seaweed” a natural superfood with extremely high nutritional value.

a farm owner or entrepreneur will be able to plan in advance a production line of seaweed rich in the substances in which they are interested, which can be used as health foods or nutritional supplements; for example, seaweed with a particularly high level of protein, seaweed rich in minerals such as iron, iodine, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, or in special pigments or anti-oxidants.

Doron Ashkenazi, Ph.D. student at Tel Aviv University, said that cultivators could grow seaweed with a particularly high level of protein or minerals such as iron, iodine, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, or even enriched with special pigments or anti-oxidants.

“The enriched seaweed can be used to help populations suffering from malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies, for example disadvantaged populations around the world, as well as supplements to a vegetarian or vegan diet,” added Ashkenazi.

A sustainable solution

Developing new agricultural practices or improving existing ones in the face of a growing world population is key to limiting food insecurity.

This is why strategies such as seaweed farming are particularly promising as their farming approach does not require extensive land, fresh water or large amounts of fertilizer.

It is environmentally friendly, and preserves nature and the ecological balance by reducing environmental risks, claimed the researchers.

“In this way, it contributes to combatting the climate crisis and global warming,” said Ashkenazi. He called on integrated aquaculture to receive more support from governments around the world due to its environmental benefits, which include the reduction of nutrient loads to coastal waters and of the emission of gases and carbon footprints.

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