Seaweed - the hero we've all been waiting for?

It's cheaper to import food than to grow it yourself... Data shows that we import 48% of the food we eat, and not just food we can't produce ourselves, but food that would work perfectly well in our own conditions. We believe the solution is in the sea!

Can Sweden become self-sufficient?

According to the Swedish Board of Agriculture, Sweden imports twice as much agricultural products and food as it exports. This means that every second bite we take is imported... We in Sweden are fortunate for many reasons where many of us rely blindly on food, fresh water and electricity being within an arm's length. It is naive to take it for granted which is a security issue and a fragile line to walk in case there is a crisis of any kind where imports are cut off. If we were to increase our self-sufficiency, we would be much more resilient in crisis management.

According to the National Farmers' Union, we have the potential to go from 50% self-sufficiency to 80%, similar to our neighbouring country Finland. Just 30 years ago we were 75% self-sufficient but had far fewer inhabitants than we do today, a pretty scary thought when you think about it. However, if you look at the Agricultural Society's ideas map of areas where we can become self-sufficient, it shows once again how clearly we rely on land-based raw materials.

Putting so much focus on agriculture not only generates further soil depletion, nutrient-poor food and eutrophicated oceans, but also gives a distorted view of what we have to offer. It's quite interesting that the ocean's farming potential is not shown, but that's what we should be working on. In any case, we need to broaden our horizons and think outside the box in order to face the future in a sustainable way.

Imports 75% of all marine raw materials

The Nature Conservancy's reports on marine exploitation, overfishing, rising sea levels and plastic pollution have forced us to realise that the oceans are not well and that we need to look at how we consume marine raw materials too. The potential to develop sustainable marine industries is great in Sweden. Given that we import 75% of the seafood we eat and that we should eat more food from the sea for both climate and health reasons, sustainable Swedish production definitely has the potential to succeed. However, it is necessary to link the business and innovation system with marine research, which you can read a lot about on

Raising awareness contributes to a better climate

The realisation that we need to change our lifestyles is an uncomfortable thought, but not least a necessary one. This has resulted in many consumers becoming more aware in their consumption and starting to look for more sea-friendly foods, among other things. Innovative marine raw food sales have increased significantly in the last year 2021 which has set off a movement that will open doors for sustainable marine farming, especially for edible marine crops like seaweed!

Given that the average Japanese eats 4 kg of seaweed a year, wouldn't it be too surprising if the rest of the world followed suit? The fact that we also have exceptionally good conditions here on the west coast for sustainable large-scale cultivation means that the conditions for providing Swedes with nutritious and climate-smart food are more than good. Our journey has only just begun.

Eating sea vegetables is nothing new under the sun and has been eaten in cultures around the world for millennia. One thing that is certain is that it will definitely start to be consumed more and more seaweed by 2022. Much thanks to their properties of tackling climate change, improving water quality, providing us with nutritious food, plus enhancing the flavours of plant-based foods.

Sea vegetables - include red, brown and green seaweed are the collective names for what includes 145 edible species of seaweed, such as purple seaweed, sugar kelp and sea lettuce. In Sweden we have no poisonous seaweed species which means you can go out and pick the delicacies of the sea yourself, you can read how to do it in the best way in Katarina Martinsson & Linnea Sjögren's book - picking the sea seaweed & shore plants. We at Nordic Seafarm grow the brown seaweed sugar kelp and are in the process of growing the green seaweed sea lettuce on a large scale.

Seaweed - climate-smart sea vegetable

Seaweed in itself is a benefit to the environment. Harvard researchers recently found that coastal ecosystems (which include seaweed and other marine plants) absorb more than 20 times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per hectare than forests on land. If grown sustainably, seaweed can be an incredibly climate-smart crop precisely because it doesn't require irrigation, fertilization, pesticides or take up valuable farmland.

These climate-smart characteristics make seaweed an attractive and profitable crop, as consumers are more interested than ever in making conscious choices that benefit the environment. However, the challenges are many and it is still difficult to obtain permits with aquatic crops as complicated regulations make it difficult despite the fact that it is proven to be good for both climate and health...

"There is a market for algae as food, cosmetics, animal feed, fertiliser, packaging material and biofuel. Algae are complete in terms of nutrients and are a sustainable alternative for protein/nutrient intake. Growing algae does not require irrigation. The main challenges are obtaining permits for sea farming, which is a rigid process." Elisabeth Brock
Newly Harvested sugar kelp

According to a March 2021 report from IBM, 55 percent of global consumers consider sustainability "very or extremely important" when choosing a brand - that's a dramatic but positive increase from the 22 percent from 2019.

Hopefully this is a trend that is here to stay, it is sure to benefit the commercial seaweed industry. In May, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation declared that we are about to enter a "seaweed revolution". It's words like these that make us proud to go to work in the morning, we're on to something so much bigger. In September 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration named seaweed farming the fastest growing sector in aquaculture.

What does seaweed taste like?

The best answer to describe the taste of seaweed is - umami. Explaining the fifth taste - umami, is a chapter of its own and you can read about that in a previous post. Seaweed is not only a super crop for the climate but is a real powerhouse of nutrients making it one of the most nutritious foods we can eat. Seaweed is enriched with iodine which is vital for thyroid and brain function, a rather elusive substance. It is also rich in manganese, vitamins C, B and K, fibre, iron and is one of the few vegan sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.

Sea cracker with seaweed butter

As it contains abundant antioxidants along with essential nutrients, it can also be a good diet for heart health. In any case, by adding seaweed to your diet, you have easily added vital nutrients. So simple and convenient.

The sugar kelp has a fresh, mild umami taste and is also a little sweet, which is why it is called sugar kelp. One of the best benefits of our seaweed is that you don't have to create a recipe specifically around the sugar snapdragon. This way you can incorporate it into any recipe you already make, even everyday dishes as it is a natural flavor enhancer to most anything.

If you have any questions about seaweed or about our business, please email us or send us a direct message via our social media @nordicseafarm! We'd love to hear from you!

Text by Micaela Lockner - 19:e Januari 2022

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