Loch Fyne Seafarms and the Scottish Association for Marine Science were awarded an ABSIG SPARK award in 2013 for their project "Redress: health provision through functional foods, securing a supply of red seaweeds."
There is a resurgence of interest in edible seaweeds such as dulse, as their health benefits are noted and their use is endorsed and popularised by celebrity chefs.
Currently little, if any, of this seaweed is cultured in the UK, but instead it is wild harvested. While some species are bountiful, relying on wild harvest means certain supplies are restricted during some seasons or in inclement weather.
In this project scientists at the Scottish Association for Marine Science have partnered Loch Fyne Seafarms, long established producers and processors of cultivated and caught shellfish, to implement and perfect methods for growing edible seaweeds in suspended cultures at sea.
The project is focused on the red seaweed Palmaria palmata or dulse which not only contains a spectrum of healthful vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, trace elements (including calcium, iodine and iron) and antioxidants but once dried carefully and rapidly, is one of the few seaweeds with a pleasant taste and mouth-feel.
Fertile plants were collected from the wild and induced to release their spores in the hatchery. Seeded strings of tiny plants were prepared for transfer to sea and on-growing. The partners are optimistic of further funds to complete the seaweed life cycle in culture to bring a crop to harvest. Developing out-planting techniques are the first steps in guaranteeing a supply of this functional food for the market place.