Israeli researchers developed an innovative method for growing “enriched seaweed” infused with nutrients, proteins, dietary fiber, and minerals for human and animal needs.
Israeli researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute have developed an innovative method for growing “enriched seaweed” infused with nutrients, proteins, dietary fiber, and minerals for human and animal needs, with the potential to be a natural superfood and to help secure food for the future of humanity.
The advanced technology promotes an environmentally-friendly approach of “sustainable integrated aquaculture.” As part of the methodology, the seaweeds purify the water in which they grow and thus help maintain the ecological balance of the marine and coastal environment.
According to the researchers, the state-of-the-art technology significantly increases the growth rate, protein levels, healthy carbohydrates, and minerals in the seaweed’s tissues, and can be used in the future for the health food industry and to secure an unlimited food source.
The research was led by Ph.D. student Doron Ashkenazi, 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.
Ashkenazi explained that in the study, local species of the algae Ulva, Gracilaria, and Hypnea were grown in close proximity to fish farming systems under different environmental conditions. The special conditions allowed the seaweed to flourish and enabled a significant improvement in their nutritional value to the point of their becoming “enriched seaweed,” which is a superfood.
It will also be possible to use the enriched seaweed in an applied manner for other health industries, for example as nutritional supplements or as medicine, as well as in the cosmetics industry.
“Seaweed can be regarded as a natural superfood, more abundant in the necessary components of the human diet than other food sources,” Ashkenazi said.
“Through the technological approach we developed, 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,” he noted.
He further pointed out that 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.”
Unlike terrestrial agriculture, aquaculture, and in particular this proposed seaweed farming approach, does not require extensive land, freshwater, or large amounts of fertilizer. It is environmentally friendly and preserves nature and the ecological balance by reducing environmental risks.
Today, integrated aquaculture is beginning to receive 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. In this way, it contributes to combatting the climate crisis and global warming.
“Technologies of this type are undoubtedly a model for a better future for humanity, a future where humans live in idyll and in health in their environment,” Ashkenazi concluded.
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