We collected harvest data from more than 200 companies. Due to a lack of information, we decided to leave out the companies from the traditional heartlands of seaweed cultivation in Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia) for this first edition. Consider this a benchmark for the new geographies of the seaweed industry.
A lot of aquaculture farms are in the “not started yet” bucket, pointing to the enthusiasm around seaweeds, as well as the problems in securing permits and the lack of knowledge around setting up an aquaculture business. Most of the wild harvesting companies that haven’t started yet are focused on harvesting Sargassum and other harmful algae blooms.
In the lower ranges up to 100 tonnes we find a lot of small-scale farms, co-ops and family-run harvesting businesses. Most of these are not growth-oriented, looking to supply only local markets or very high-end buyers.
Startups seeking scale
A number of startups looking to scale 100x are currently in the 100-1000 tonnes range. As market demand is no longer the big bottleneck it used to be and mechanized harvesting technology takes off, industry insiders expect the first mariculture harvests over 1000 tonnes to happen in the next years in Europe and North America.
The wild harvesting businesses in this segment are a mix of smaller established wild harvesters, alongside Caribbean startups harvesting Sargassum. If the latter can refine their operations and find bigger markets for their products, or start sinking seaweed in large quantities, we expect them to move into the tens and hundreds of thousands of tonnes in the coming years.
Excluding the prolific Asian and Tanzanian growers, companies that harvest more than 1000 tonnes of wet seaweed per year are almost exclusively wild harvesters for now. These are established companies that have been operating for decades. They are vertically integrated and produce either fertiliser and animal feed for agribusiness, or hydrocolloids for the global food industry.