Domestic Economy

Call for Developing Seaweed Farming

Call for Developing  Seaweed FarmingCall for Developing  Seaweed Farming

It’s been more than 40 years since various types of algae (seaweed) were first consumed in the world. Different countries like China, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India produce 150 tons of the plant annually for domestic consumption and export.

Seaweed can be used for human consumption and aquaculture. Some microalgae are used as food for other aquatic creatures, while others are exploited in scores of different products worldwide. Food, cosmetics and hygienic products, medicine, agriculture, water purification, fodder, supplementary foods, livestock, fisheries and many other industries are among consumers of this valuable sea plant.

Iran has been importing seaweed annually for domestic consumption while studies have recently shown that the Hormozgan Coast is an ideal place to grow seaweed, the Persian daily Forsat Emruz reported.

Shortage of funds, and more importantly, lack of technical knowledge, as well as support from the government have put the idea on the back burner for so long. Following the unenthusiastic government, the private sector avoided venturing as well.

Experts say the rate of culturing seaweed in Iran stands at zero in spite of several incomplete trial projects implemented on small scales.

According to saltwater specialist Amir Shoa Hasani the market demand for 33 tons of seaweed in 2010 signifies high consumption of this substance and Iran has the potential and the proper genus to meet this demand.

Certain southern regions, namely the southern provinces of Hormozgan and Sistan-Baluchestan, as well as Gilan and Mazandaran in the north enjoy the ideal environmental conditions to grow seaweed and the ministry of agriculture Jihad can support interested investors with loans and funds, according to director of fish reproduction and stock enhancement of Iran Fishery Organization (IFO) Hossein Abdolhay.

Iran consumed $23 million worth of imported seaweed during the last 18 months. Shoa Hasani believes that growing seaweed to produce and export agar, a type of seaweed worth $18 a kilo, could stop outflow of currency.

Agar is a jelly-like substance obtained from the cell walls of some species of red algae like ‘gracilaria’, and is used as the growth medium for certain bacteria, dental materials, laxatives, pills and tablets, glue, cosmetics, and electronic gels.

Processing agar is a far more profitable business than producing it. The global price of dry seaweed stands at 60 cent to $2.5 depending on the gelatin amount, while the end products are much more costly and enjoy a greater demand.

According to the officials in IFO, a foreign investor experienced in growing seaweed overseas managed to obtain a license from the ministry of industry, mine and trade and the pertinent organizations to construct artificial tide pools to culture seaweed inside the country.

The CEO of Daryakaran-e-Qeshm Co. and investment manager Masoud Asli, is pursuing the matter to initiate growing gracilaria (a genus of red algae) in Iran. However, the company has not produced any type of seaweed for three years and is planned to go into operation next year (beginning March 21).

Asli said that the company works on macro algae as they are internationally used as stabilizers, raw materials, and thickeners in a variety of industries. “We must make optimum use of 1,700 kilometers of warm coastal water that are unexploited,” he underlined.

A sum of 120 billion rials ($351803 at market exchange rate), and an area of six hectares were allocated to operating the project. A major part of the production takes place on the seabed and is estimated to produce 215 tons of dry seaweed per annum.

“The allocated budget pertains to raw seaweed only, and advanced technologies and sophisticated workforce are required to cultivate or extract agar,” said deputy head of IFO Ali Asghar Mojahedi.

He maintained that support is offered prospective investors, but was opposed by Asli who believes that the technical knowledge of the industry is worth millions of dollars as it is a sensitive field of business and not feasible through trial and error.

“Acquiring the marine science is the first prerequisite followed by marketing and trade since we do not have an application for raw seaweed in Iran and its processed substances are imported,” Asli asserted.