When we began PEBL, we were motivated primarily by the climate crisis. The more we learn about seaweed farming the more potential we could see for us to shift our skills and experience into a new area - one that could help with the challenges of food systems, pollutants, health and declining coastal industries:
Food system - Imports make up 48% of the food consumed in the UK. If more food can be cultivated in the UK this would reduce transportation effects on the environment (global food security, 2015).
Pollutants and soil erosion - Agriculture is the biggest producer of Nitrogen-based pollutants in the UK, which poses a risk to sea-life by reducing the water's oxygen content (Warwick HRII, 2005). At the same time, soil erosion is a major concern for future food security. 17% of arable soils in England and Wales show signs of erosion with another 40% thought to be at risk (defra report, 2011).
Health and wellbeing - Diet-related non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes are a major health problem in the UK, with obesity predicted to affect half of all adults by 2050 (Food Foundation Org Report, 2016). Although there are many structural issues to address, there is a need to focus food production on low-cost, high-nutrient, low-fat foods that have minimal impact on the environment.
Coastal industry - The aquaculture industry in England, Wales and N.Ireland has stagnated over the last 30 years, despite growth in Scotland (Seafish, 2016). There is a need to strengthen and diversify the industries of coastal communities, many of which have suffered economic decline, and face significant social and environmental challenges (Coastal Communities Fund Annual Report, 2015).
Although not eaten widely in the UK, seaweed has great potential to contribute to health and nutrition, seaweeds are very low in fat, but they contain a wide spectrum of nutrients, with varieties such as dulse and laver containing large percentages of protein with similar amino acid profiles to legumes (Teagasc, 2012).
We follow Natural Resources Wales guidelines when harvesting wild seaweed for seed. Developing sustainable working methods and an ethical business are important to us, for the protection of biodiversity, and for the health and wellbeing of our workers and consumers. We contribute to a network of aquaculture organisations and businesses, to share knowledge, good practice and to seek advice and support.
Part of our work is focused on understanding and encouraging people's connections to the sea. We are planning to connect with community groups to share our work in accessible ways, particularly through performance and visual creative methods. Ultimately we want to raise people's awareness of sea cultures and increase people's curiosity and confidence to eat and cook with seaweed.