Around 15 million tonnes of cultivated wet seaweed are used each year by international seaweed manufacturers for products such as nutraceuticals and traditional Asian foods. Source: The Daily Telegraph
IT'S not mother nature's prettiest work and when it washes up on the beach it stinks but it could just be Australia's next cash cow.
A Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation report has identified a potential export market for seaweed. The global edible seaweed industry is worth $6 billion a year.
The algae is also used to produce pharmaceuticals, health foods and various agricultural products.
Report co-author and Wollongong University's Shoalhaven Marine and Freshwater Centre director Pia Winberg said Australia imported about $20 million of edible seaweed each year, most of it already processed.
One Australian company is already producing pharmaceuticals from seaweed and a Tasmanian firm is making agricultural products, but both rely on costly imports, she said.
Not only are our unpolluted waters perfect for growing seaweed, Australia is home to two types of nori, which is used to make sushi, and other native species have been found to contain cancer fighting and anti-diabetes properties, she said.
"We have a lot of very clean, untouched waters and we could be using that to target the very clean, green food markets.""It's probably the niche markets that will suit us," Dr Winberg said.
And the seaweed revolution might not be restricted to our pristine coastline. Our saline-affected countryside could also be used to grow seaweed.
"There's great potential for inland areas," she said.
"The problem is that inland salty waters can be quite different to sea water, with higher levels of iron and not as much potassium."