The Superpowers of Seaweed
Who would have thought that the salty superfood from the sea would be packed with powers that would fuel the future of sustainable, low emission ocean and coastal farming.
Venus Shell Systems and PhycoHealth evolved from a test tube of seaweed in a New South Wales south coast laboratory and today the companies are embracing the nutritional superpower of this Australian cultivated seaweed, with food, skin, and health supplement products.
Two decades ago, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Pia Winberg, of Venus Shell Systems and PhycoHealth, sought a more sustainable, low emission alternative to grow food from the oceans and coastal zones.
Being ahead of her time, Dr. Winberg realised that seaweed was the missing link.
“I discovered a unique species of Australian seaweed with an exceptional nutritional profile and outstanding taste, which filled gaps in our diets from inflammation, trace element deficiencies, to poor gut health,” she said.
Backed by world-first technology, Venus Shell Systems and PhycoHealth’s site is located at Manildra Group’s Shoalhaven Starches in Nowra New South Wales.
Here they sustainably farm seaweed species and capture CO2, nitrogen residues and lost nutrient streams from Shoalhaven Starches’ manufacturing process and releases only clean, oxygenated water back into the environment.
In an extraordinary process, the seaweed species re-oxygenates the seas, buffers against acidity, and can grow up to fifty times faster than land-based crops.
“The Shoalhaven Starches site has created a partial circular economy of waste to energy system, and together with Manildra Group we have proudly established the world’s first truly circular food production system, with zero waste,” Dr Winberg said.
“We are so proud to have fostered the development of an Australian-first – we farm, process, manufacture and sell our seaweed enhancing products. It’s a completely integrated system from sunlight, to packaged product, and your plate!”
“We are currently working on closing the food cycle loop completely by creating a serious crop producing 100 tonnes of dried seaweed per hectare, and no waste!” Dr Winberg told The Cultivator.
As a platform of biomaterial, food, and feed, the benefits of seaweed are limitless, including reducing the burdens of land limitation, water scarcity, drought, and synthetic fertiliser manufacturing.
Manildra Group Managing Director John Honan said that the seaweed species quality and consistency was unrivalled, with a perfectly balanced mineral profile with iodine, calcium, magnesium, and selenium.
“PhycoHealth’s work has opened our eyes to the nutritional benefits of seaweed, from replacing antibiotics in aquafeeds, boosting animal gut health, improving iron deficiencies in teenagers, to supporting anti-inflammation and gut health.
“With innovation, leading-edge technology, and sustainability at their core, the truly circular process connects the land and sea systems successfully harnessing the power of sustainably farmed seaweed for good,” Mr Honan said.
From pasta, corn chips and muesli, PhycoHealth’s nutritional seaweed enhanced products promote good gut health, and are available at their online site, Harris Farm stores and independent retailers.
Their irresistible signature range of seaweed rich pastas are delighting customers with its emerald vibrancy and features Manildra Group’s Gem of the West Durum Semolina.
Due to the controlled nature of nutrient streams for seaweed species, PhycoHealth’s products are nutrient dense and boast more than 40 per cent protein, than if placed at sea.
“We protect it here from seawater elements, and meticulously filter incoming seawater creating highly sought-after premium traceable marine molecules,” Dr Winberg said.
Renowned for its purity the seaweed molecules have an incredible ability to produce new tissue regeneration for wounds, organs and additionally fight viruses, bound for the medical and personal care industry.
“Thankfully Manildra Group’s Chairman Mr Dick Honan had the foresight to give me a chance, and successfully we have transformed a waste stream into highly valuable nutritional products, whilst also helping the environment.
“Internationally the seaweed industry is valued at $12 billion, and we have an incredible opportunity at Manildra Group to create the nation’s first commercial crop – uniquely sophisticated it will go well beyond the seaweed of today.
“Mr Honan tells me to “never ever give up,” and we haven’t. Every day is hard work, and some days are tough. But we have come so far, and we are ready to make it a
big thing,” she said.