The Power of Sea Greens

The American Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports that seaweed can be used to help lower blood pressure and support heart health. But it’s not just a superfood, low in calories and fat and high in protein, fibers and nutrients like calcium and iron. Seaweed also plays a significant role in mitigating climate change. It contributes to generating the planet’s oxygen and retains up to 15 times the carbon dioxide of land plants. This powerful marine life serves as a vital resource at our disposal that not only promotes renewed health and wellness but a greener environment too. 

From Sea to Table

It’s a Thursday afternoon, one where the sun has no clouds to cower behind. Their unobstructed rays reveal the mosaic of immaculate stones, as dainty and white as snow, that scatter as if a mirage, along the shoreline of Fornæs. Bjarne Ottesen and his son Kristian take turns putting on a pair of waders, suiting up to harvest five tons of seaweed. The father and son duo have dedicated their lives to capitalizing on the useful properties of this seemingly underrated organism. Bjarne developed their business because of his passion for nature protection, ecology and sustainability, resulting in the start of their family-owned company, Nordisk Tang, or Nordic Seaweed. “It’s important that somebody enters into action. Seaweed is an overlooked food, feed and fertilizer resource,” Bjarne says. “It’s healthy, tastes good, and supports the biodiversity of the water.” As the sky’s cool colors melted overhead, the two carried out a large-scale harvest of toothed wrack, the chosen name for an algae with distinct, serrated edges. Bjarne repeatedly submerged his forearms into the polished, icy waters, carefully trimming bunches of seaweed that went into bins for Kristian to haul back to their truck for the sizeable order made by a German company.

Nordisk Tang has established some of the highest turnover rates in Scandinavia, their clients ranging all over northern Europe. But as a small, commercial company, it’s their compassion to operate conservatively and consciously that has laid the foundation for their enterprise. Countries like Japan and China are the examples that have inspired the Ottesen’s vision to harness the nutritional and educational value of seaweed. In East Asia, roughly 10 percent of products contain seaweed. This powerful marine life serves as a vital resource at our disposal that not only promotes renewed health and wellness but a greener environment too. Since their start in 2015, Nordisk Tang has pioneered a narrative around cultivating seaweed as an ingredient in blue and green foods. Their message, which focuses on the flavor and functionality of seaweed, is slowly gaining momentum. “We’ve been working day in and day out for seven years and have always had this feeling that we are further ahead than we are,” Kristian said. “The market hasn’t fully accepted seaweed as a food ingredient in Europe. Getting stakeholders involved takes time.” 

The Science Behind Seaweed

There is another type of innovative business that also works with seaweed, without needing to harvest anything from the water. Pure Algae is a newly developed company working to patent technology that enables a fully land-based cultivation operation. As one of the first of its kind, their hope is to create a system that enables growth of high quality and allergen free seaweed. “The current impact of land-based seaweed production in Europe is rather small,” says Lasse Nielsen, head of development. “We change the narrative for our collaborators and provide the technology for high-quality seaweed for food and pharmaceutical products.”

The seaweed community in Denmark is a growing. Whether it is due to developing industry or personal investment, there is a common mission to change the world of agriculture and food production with cultural and practical ingenuity in mind. According to a research project from The Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute, seaweed sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. And since there are no known poisonous or toxic seaweeds in existence, the roughly 400 species of seaweed found in Denmark are not only safe to use, but vital to preserve, as its utility yields for infinite, holistic importance not only for the natural world, but also the developed one.

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