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The opportunity in our oceans

A shoal of fish swim through kelp. But could seaweed become the next big thing in sustainable investing?

29 Nov 2023

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We believe seaweed has the potential to be one of the next big sustainable investing themes. Our report explores how businesses – and investors – could benefit.

With the world’s population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, sustainability targets are becoming harder to achieve without bold action.  

Our latest research reveals a unique opportunity for investors to make a positive impact in this space.

Based on our findings, expanding seaweed production presents an opportunity for global investors and will channel capital in support of wider development goals.   

Research highlights include: 

Why seaweed? 

Seaweed is incredibly diverse and can be used across a wide range of industries – from food and cosmetics to agriculture and pharmaceuticals – to help address pressing global challenges like malnutrition or mitigating greenhouse gas emissions – acting as a disruptor across industries.   

Yet despite there being over 12,000 known species of seaweed, only a very small percentage are commercially farmed today and just 10 species make up 99 per cent of global seaweed production.

A rapidly accelerating growth market 

Although seaweed has been cultivated for centuries, the pace of production has rapidly accelerated over the past 20 years – with the value of the global seaweed market rising 10-fold since 1984 to reach USD15.5 billion. 

Despite this boost, production remains highly concentrated in Asia: China and Indonesia currently account for 90 per cent of global seaweed production. Based on our research, these two markets alone could see a seven-fold increase in production between now and 2040.  

With largely untapped markets such as Europe and the Americas yet to develop in this space, the opportunities for growth remain compelling. 

We believe an estimated investment of USD100 billion could generate an additional USD313 billion of value and around 200 million new jobs globally. 

Key challenges remain 

Despite its vast potential, we recognise that expanding the seaweed economy is not without its challenges.  

These include uncertainty around carbon sequestration and potential environmental concerns with unsustainable seaweed farming practices.  

The biggest barrier, in our view, is lack of funding for seaweed companies.  

Finding a way forward 

Our research highlights a clear need for increased global collaboration to establish investment support programmes, allowing smallholder farmers to get easier access to funding. These programmes should be designed to scale up seaweed production quickly and easily.  

A guaranteed, pooled investment approach could work well to attract the sufficient capital needed to unlock the industry’s potential and help achieve sustainability targets.  

Given the critical role that seaweed can play in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we expect interest in the topic to accelerate over the next few years.