Our Latest Ocean Hero, Joost Wouters
We’re delighted to introduce our latest Ocean Hero, Joost Wouters, SeaEO of The Seaweed Company and blue economy activist to you all. Joost and his team implement carbon positive seaweed solutions by growing and harvesting seaweed on a global scale.
From absorbing carbon emissions, to providing a green alternative to plastics, and to reducing methane emissions, seaweed can play a huge role in fighting climate change. But it’s potential doesn’t end there, large-scale seaweed farms could play a vital role in cleaning up the ocean and restoring biodiversity. But that’s enough from us! Hear more from the expert in the interview below...
OB: Tell us a bit about yourself?
JW: I studied as a mechanical engineer and worked a lot in fast moving consumer goods in the area of sales and marketing. I started my own firm where we consulted companies to be more sustainable in their organisations. About four years ago, I ran into the opportunity of seaweed to which I am now fully devoted.
OB: What sparked your interest in seaweed?
JW: was looking to have a tangible impact and do something that really contributes to the state of the world. I originally didn't know anything about seaweed and the more I looked into the potential of it, I became really interested. I realised that this is what I wanted to spend my life doing, pioneering and building this industry.
I got interested in seaweed as I saw the many applications. It can be used for human applications for animals, fertiliser, materials and renewable energy. In order to enable those applications, we started The Seaweed Company where we focus on one side on growing and producing seaweed at scale and on the other side on creating those applications in all those different areas.
OB: Who founded The Seaweed Company?
JW: We started The Seaweed Company with two other partners, we are all Dutch. Stefan Kraan is our biologist and he knows everything about seaweed. Edwin Sneekes translates the concept into financial figures. The three of us started TSC about two years ago and right now we have about 18 people all over the world. We have farms in Ireland, Morocco, India and we have experts in a few different locations; Belgium, UK and Netherlands who help us build the company.
OB: Sustainable impact: How does seaweed stack up compared to other renewable energy sources?
JW: Seaweed is a unique untapped resource with many valuable applications amongst which we have renewable energy. You can use biomass seaweed to make energy and digest into gas and that is one of the things we are looking into right now to extract valuable products out of seaweed. If we can use the remnants or ‘waste’ streams we can make energy out of it, right now this is a story for the coming years and currently we are making products for humans and plants.
What’s interesting about seaweed is that it’s an important contributor to restoring the state of the ocean. Seaweed is the fastest growing biomass on the planet; it absorbs about 120kg of CO2 per tonne of seaweed. It requires nothing, no land, fresh water or fertiliser to grow only sunlight, CO2 and seawater and the nutrients from the sea. It also holds the ability to remove excess nutrients from eutrophic areas so it can mimic the effect of ocean acidification. As well as this, when seaweed grows it forms a habitat for marine life and enriches marine biodiversity. There’s not a lot of biomasses that can do that so it is a big goal for seaweed.
OB: Do you believe it could serve as a replacement to fossil fuels one day?
JW: The replacement of fossil fuels is a point on the horizon we want to work to. What that requires is a lot of seaweed, but we’ll get there. We start with replacing fossil fuel alternatives so one of our products now is a fertiliser or growth stimulant that can replace synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. We have a product for cows that will not only result in a better feed conversion so that cows and pigs need less feed, which will impact on their footprint, but also the methane emissions will reduce so there's also a big carbon effect. Over time when the volumes are growing we are looking into ways of using seaweed as a biomass to make materials and replace fossil fuel materials and create fuel out of it. So those are the steps in the journey to replace fossil fuels or fossil fuel based products.
OB: What else are you working on in the future?
JW: Seaweed has many value applications. For the coming years one of the most important is contributing to a better immune system for humans, animals and plants. It helps improve our gut help and make us more resilient which obviously in these times is an important element.
Thank you, Joost for sharing your story with us! Check out the Ocean Heroes video below.