Philanthropy has taken notice of the desperate state many natural kelp forests find themselves in, as well as the restorative power of seaweed aquaculture. There is a steady trend towards more grants and more grant money, especially since 2019.
The sharp uptick in funding in 2020 is due to the $100 million grant from the Bezos Earth Fund to WWF, one third of which WWF plans to dedicate to capacity building in seaweed aquaculture.
The focus for philanthropic grants is on conservation and restoration of kelp forests, capacity building in low-income countries and techniques to combat climate change (livestock methane reduction and carbon sequestration) and restore ocean health (bioremediation).
As seaweed farms scale up, negative aspects will become more noticeable, and resistance against seaweed farming at scale will grow. Rather than dismiss protesters as NIMBYs and misguided romantics who fail to see aquaculture’s potential, it will be key for future large-scale growers to build social license through inclusion, education and dialogue with residents to pre-empt protests.
Educational community projects like Denmark’s HavHøst or Wales’ Pebl can play a role in raising awareness, while crowdfunding can give stakeholders a sense of ownership. Governments can play a role by making social licenses a mandatory part of each seaweed cultivation site license.