Engineering Professionals. Latest Seaweed Cultivation Technology Could Stop Climate Change

9 min read

Already, macroalgae grown for biofuel, food, and feed are part of one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide. Lithuanian engineering professionals from Rocket Cluster are developing innovative technologies that have the potential to make Scandinavian countries the global centre for these advancements. They believe these technologies can even play a crucial role in combatting climate change.

Mainly cultivated in Asia

According to Jonas Kamašauskas, Head of the Research and Experimental Development (R&D) Department at Metal Production and leader of the engineering team at Rocket Cluster, macroalgae are currently predominantly cultivated in Asian countries, with China being a major player. However, in China, they still rely on old traditions and technologies, utilising cheap labour and focusing solely on increasing the quantity of the product rather than its quality.

“It is important to mention that special seaweed farms ensure that the marine ecosystem remains intact during both cultivation and harvesting processes. Despite this, over 90 percent of all macroalgae are grown on farms in Asian countries.

We should shift our focus on such countries as Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and France, as they prioritize obtaining better quality seaweed rather than merely pursuing quantity. These countries have adopted advanced cultivation mechanisms and have the potential to replace the current Asian dominance in the seaweed cultivation industry. I am confident that their technological advantage will lead them to become leaders in this field,” said the engineering specialist.

According to Kamašauskas, cultivating seaweed and implementing innovative technologies could significantly reduce methane emissions associated with farming. Additionally, he highlighted that seaweed can absorb up to 20 times more CO2 than forests during photosynthesis. The equipment developed by the Rocket Cluster, a collaboration of engineers from seven Lithuanian engineering companies, is already being successfully used in Denmark and Norway.

We have identified unexploited areas where, by implementing the latest technology and cultivating seaweed, we could potentially even halt climate change. Our calculations suggest that if the West Coast of America were to embrace this culture, it could remove as much CO2 from the atmosphere as 80,000 polluting cars produce,” stated the representative of the cluster, which unites Lithuanian engineers. He added that his colleagues are actively working on a project aligned with the ecological priorities set by the European Commission, aiming to contribute to the preservation of the ecosystem.

Creating innovative technology

The engineering professionals at Rocket Cluster, in collaboration with colleagues from the Netherlands and Norway, are pioneering an innovative approach for industrial-scale universal position-modular cultivation and harvesting of edible algae.

“The technology we are working on aims to automate a significant portion of the manual labour involved in the process. This will not only reduce cultivation and harvesting costs but also make a valuable contribution to nature conservation and global hunger-reduction. Edible seaweed, such as the ones we are focusing on, is rich in essential vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and more.

While they may not have access to the North Sea, the team is confident that the right industry, research centres, expertise, and facilities are more than sufficient to ensure the successful development of the industry. One noteworthy aspect of seaweed cultivation is its versatility, as it can be grown vertically, horizontally, underwater, and not only outdoors but also indoors. The choice of the most suitable method is primarily determined by the location of the cultivation,” stated Gediminas Tamošaitis, Head of Metal Production and Rocket Cluster, who has been conducting research and working in this field for ten years.

Bringing together engineering professionals

The engineering professionals at Rocket Cluster, when discussing macroalgae cultivation and the latest technologies, emphasize that this is a crucial collaborative project encompassing mechanics, electronics, chemistry, and even artificial intelligence.

“We are pioneers in this field in Lithuania, and we are already witnessing tremendous prospects through our partnership with Scandinavian colleagues. Our primary objective is not just cultivation but also to develop cutting-edge equipment and ever-improving technologies.

We are currently working on a seaweed blanching system dedicated to the thermal treatment of algae and developing innovative, highly economical seaweed drying equipment. We have delivered a seaweed grinding machine to the Azores. Furthermore, we are also actively collaborating with a Danish company to create sustainable onshore seaweed farms. In other words, our goal is to propel seaweed farming into the 21st century by fostering strong partnerships with seaweed farmers,” said G. Tamošaitis.

Rocket Cluster has brought together diverse engineering teams driven by a shared passion for innovation and technology. They are currently collaborating with renowned Norwegian and global seaweed farmers such as Arctic Seaweed, PureAlgae, and Oceanrain Forest, among others. According to G. Tamošaitis, the expertise of Norwegian professionals and daily challenges inspire Rocket Cluster’s engineers to seek long-term solutions and contribute to the advancement of the global seaweed cultivation industry.

Rocket Cluster, a collaborative effort comprising companies such as Metal Production UAB, Santaviltė UAB, Anaga UAB, LZtechnika UAB, AKSONAS UAB, and two additional non-associated members, TeleSoftas UAB and BE ALIVE UAB, is currently engaged in diverse engineering fields. These include scientific research and experimental development, project and structure development, system and device design, production and delivery of various engineering projects, as well as the development and application of lasers in the industry. The cluster also focuses on implementing Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, designing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and creating modern high-speed data transmission systems. Moreover, they offer consulting services on a range of engineering and capital-raising matters. Additionally, the Rocket Cluster plays a significant role in the cultivation and harvesting of seaweed, among other ventures.