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Research and development into the UK’s fledgling seaweed farming industry won gold for SAMS Enterprise at last Thursday’s Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) Highlands and Islands Awards.
SAMS Enterprise, the commercial arm of SAMS, won the Ocean Winds Award for Excellence in Marine Innovation and Growing the Blue Economy.
The project recently secured a joint investment of £150,000 from SAMS and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to upgrade its seaweed nursery. The new centre will enable innovative seeding techniques and technologies to catalyse growth of the UK seaweed sector, while offering the highest levels of biosecurity and environmental sustainability.
SAMS is also at the forefront of research into seaweed cultivation; the organisation operates a seaweed farm and leads international research projects relating to seaweed farming.
Accepting the award at the virtual ceremony, Head of SAMS Enterprise Mike Spain thanked the SCDI and the award sponsors, adding: ‘At SAMS we are fortunate to have a concentration of world-leading macro-algae researchers.
‘This expertise has been the driver behind the science of our innovation in developing seeded material to support Scotland’s growing farmed seaweed industry. I am very lucky to have a fantastic team who have led the conversion of the innovative science into practical deliverable products grown in our state-of-the-art seaweed nursery.’
Although the seaweed industry is the fastest growing area of production within global aquaculture, worth more than £11billion per year, the full business potential has not yet been realised within the UK.
Working with SAMS Enterprise provides businesses with direct access to the leading research in seaweed reproduction and cultivation being undertaken on site by SAMS. This includes the opportunity to interact with specialists in the development of innovative farming practices and solutions, with expert knowledge in seeding techniques, selective breeding and disease management. It also provides access to other resources, such as the operation of a globally accessed culture library – the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa – in which reproductive material can be held for customer supply.
The importance of the seaweed sector to the Highlands and Islands region has been highlighted in multiple recent reports by Argyll and Bute Council, Crown Estate Scotland and Marine Scotland and through rapid growth of the Scottish Seaweed Industry Association.
SAMS Director Professor Nicholas Owens said: ‘This award is well deserved recognition for many decades of world-leading research into seaweeds by many SAMS scientists that is now being translated into innovative and practical solutions for the nascent seaweed industry by new generations of scientists, engineers and project managers.
‘It is an excellent example of how scientific ingenuity can help Scotland, the UK and the international community ‘grow back better’ through the blue economy.’
The other finalists were Hebridean Adventures and Moray First Marine.