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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
Seaweed farming is a unique opportunity to simultaneously produce nutritious food, enable climate change mitigation, and provide economic opportunity for coastal communities. To meet the growing demand for protein, aquaculture production has increased by 609% in the last three decades.i However, certain resource intensive farmed seafood sectors, such as shrimp and fish farming, have contributed to the degradation of critical coastal habitats, exploitation of wild fish stocks for feed, and consolidation of profits.ii Expanding the market for environmentally regenerative marine-based crops, such as farmed seaweed, can lead to significant local ecosystem and socioeconomic benefits. Downstream, seaweed can be used as a net-zero input within animal feed, fertilizer, and materials supply chains, thereby directly offsetting the freshwater use, land conversion, and carbon emissions associated with existing agriculture products.
Farmed seaweed is one of the planet’s most resource efficient methods of growing food and fiber; kelp farms can produce 100 - 200 tons of biomass per ha (nearly double the spatial yield of potatoes) without the use of arable land, freshwater inputs, or fertilizers.iii As seaweed grows, it takes up excess carbon and nutrients within the water column, thereby reducing the local climate change impacts of ocean acidification and eutrophication, and enhancing marine biodiversity.iv Post-harvest, seaweed can be used in numerous applications that have measurable environmental impacts. Kelp-based animal feeds have the dual benefits of directly displacing terrestrial feed commodities and improving animal health, survival, and feed conversion ratios.v Seaweed biostimulants and fertilizers offer an organic, low GHG (and at times more effective) alternative to synthetic fertilizers, which emit more CO2 each year than the world’s aviation and shipping sectors combined.vi The United Nations estimates that Sustainable Development Goal 14 “Life Below Water" receives the least amount of government, multilateral, or investor support, a product of technical knowledge gaps and complex risk profiles in the marine space.vii WWF Impact is committed to closing this financing gap within the emerging seaweed aquaculture industry by investing in innovative, conservation minded businesses that are directly addressing barriers to scale.
There is an opportunity to significantly grow the farmed seaweed sector by expanding cultivation in regions with high farming potential but little existing output. WWF’s global landscape scan of the seaweed sector identified three key strategies to increase production in these new geographies: (1) facilitating access to capital, (2) strengthening public acceptance for ocean farming, and (3) building new products/markets for farmed biomass. Our aquaculture impact investment strategy directly leverages the content knowledge and market insights needed to invest in businesses working on the leading edge of sustainable ocean farming.
iFAO. “The state of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture”. 2022
iiNaylor et al. "Effect of Aquaculture on world fish supplies". 2000; Naylor et al. "A 20-year retrospective review of global aquaculture". 2021
iiiDuarte et al. "Can Seaweed Farming Play a Role in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation?". 2017; FAO. "Land and Water - Crop Information - Potato". 2023
ivBarrett et al. "Sustainable growth of non-fed aquaculture can generate valuable ecosystem benefits". 2022
vWWF US “Solutions to Meet the Need for Feed”. 2023
viAli et al., “Biostimulant Properties of Seaweed Extracts in Plants: Implications towards Sustainable Crop Production”. 2021; Our World in Data. “Emissions by sector”. 2020
viiOECD "The Ocean Economy in 2030". 2016.