The seaweed industry saw its number of investment deals double while the amount invested grew by 36% to $168 million in 2021. The new figures show how a vibrant seaweed industry is emerging outside of Asia, with investors taking note of the sustainable future biomass.
The data comes from a new Phyconomy study, showing that the number of new seaweed startups has grown by 50% in the past two years, with Europe having the most active seaweed startup ecosystem – although North American startups find it easier to attract capital, according to the report.
Phyconomy is an information portal for the seaweed industry established in 2020 to track the emerging seaweed economy. Other key takeaways from its report include that the midstream of the value chain is underserved in the field, with processing and distribution lacking innovators and entrepreneurs – although Scottish seaweed biorefinery Oceanium has recently raised £2 million in a seed round which included the WWF.
Seaweed startup ecosystem
Some of the biggest funding rounds in 2021 included $18 million for New Wave Foods – the Tyson-backed plant-based shrimp specialist – and $13.5 million for Notpla – the seaweed-based bioplastics innovator. As seaweed needs no land, freshwater, or fertilizer, it represents a highly sustainable crop with applications in a range of sectors, from food to pharmaceuticals to textiles and more.
“Seaweed is an important part of the earth’s ecosystem, and it has the potential to be a powerful tool to absorb carbon emissions and slow warming,” explains Frances Wang, program manager of carbon dioxide removal for ClimateWorks Foundation, which supported the report. “Phyconomy’s report illuminates how resources are flowing to this burgeoning industry, which has important implications for the development of seaweed as a climate solution.”