Investment-Backed Seafields Completes Pioneering Seaweed Carbon Trials
Image: Antonia Thielecke (in blue)/Alfred Wegener Institute leading the operation on board the German icebreaker RV Polarstern. Credit Gianluca Volpe
In an ambitious endeavour that could reshape the dialogue on carbon sequestration, UK aquaculture startup Seafields has successfully executed a series of seaweed biomass-sinking trials. Nestled between the icy expanses of Greenland and Svalbard, within the Fram Strait, the innovative problems sought to probe the ability of seaweed to permanently lock away carbon and gauge the ecological ramifications of such a process.
Breaking new ground, the trials involved four distinct biomass types—unprocessed Sargassum, green algae (Ulva), kelp, and terrestrial biomass. Seafields, who recently partnered with Running Tide and Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute, released biomass bales to an impressive depth of 3,483 meters. The daring enterprise forms the cornerstone of a comprehensive environmental assessment that would cast a new light on sustainable carbon capture.
A laudable initiative, to be sure. But why seaweed? Seaweeds may function as reliable carbon vaults for thousands of years, mitigating atmospheric greenhouse gas levels while posing minimal environmental risk. A remotely operated vehicle will revisit the submerged biomass, capturing vital imagery and data during next year's expedition. This data trove will feed into complex lab analyses aimed at decoding these deep-sea biomass packages' integrity and carbon content.
John Auckland, Seafields' CEO, hailed the project as a "seminal leap" in a longer-term strategy. "We're scrutinizing three kinds of seaweed alongside terrestrial biomass," Auckland elaborated. "Our goal is simple yet profound: validate the hypothesis that these submerged bales are ecologically benign and degrade at a glacial pace."
Franziska Elmer, the project's lead scientist, chimes in, spotlighting the dearth of studies on seaweed decomposition in deep-sea conditions. "It's a largely uncharted domain," she said, "and our findings could potentially revolutionize how we approach carbon sequestration."
Seafields is also crafting advanced technologies to cultivate, harvest, and store Sargassum at scale in its South Atlantic aqua farms in a future-leaning stride. The audacious mission: remove an astonishing one billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere annually by the year 2032.
The announcement from Seafields arrives on the heels of its partner Running Tide, another carbon removal venture, completing its inaugural biomass-sinking project off Iceland's coast. Supported by Shopify's Sustainability Fund, Running Tide's endeavour saw the sinking of over 1,000 tonnes of biomass, further validating the viability of this novel approach.
All said and done, these early victories suggest a promising and perhaps transformative path for large-scale, eco-friendly carbon capture. Indeed, as we navigate the perils of a changing climate, such trailblazing initiatives could offer a glimmer and a beacon of hope.