There’s a surge of excitement around seaweed cultivation on the West Coast if the heavy-hitters on the speakers’ list of an upcoming inaugural conference on the topic is any measure of interest.
Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, and federal and provincial Green Party politicians Elizabeth May and Adam Olsen are all on board to open the week-long Seaweed Days being debuted by Cascadia Seaweed on Monday.
Registration for the largely free virtual event is surpassing original expectations, said Cascadia spokesperson Erin Bremner-Mitchell, adding conference organizers originally planned to accommodate 400 people, but now predict closer to 1,000 attendees.
The growing fervour in B.C. for seaweed farming as a means to grow a sustainable superfood that benefits both the economy and the environment reflects the passion cultivating algae is garnering worldwide.
The United Nations Global Compact — which spearheads an international effort to establish sustainable development goals — launched a global coalition in mid-March to support a safe, sustainable, and scalable seaweed industry as a means to address any number of global issues. The initiative has even developed a Seaweed Manifesto.
Seaweed aquaculture is being explored as means to bolster food security for developing nations, capture carbon to stem climate change, support biodiversity in marine ecosystems, and provide jobs and economic development in small coastal and Indigenous communities.
A number of coastal First Nations are Cascadia's first partners to grow the seaweed farming industry in B.C. waters.
Research is also underway to develop environmentally friendly bioplastics from seaweed, or to see if feeding it to burping cows is a viable way to reduce methane emissions that aggravate global warming.
Vincent Doumeizel, senior adviser at United Nations Global Compact on Oceans, is the keynote speaker at Seaweed Days and is expected to discuss the ways everyone — from small-scale cultivators to international corporations, researchers and coastal communities — can contribute to a seaweed revolution.
“We’ve got some really amazing speakers,” Bremner-Mitchell said.
The events at the conference run the gamut, too, featuring an industry speaker series, climate science discussions, along with culinary, art and skincare demos. There are also kids' science demos and sleepy seaweed stories for youngsters.
For those itching to get into algae aquaculture, there is also a two-day professional development workshop titled, Seaweed Farming 101.
A primary goal of Seaweed Days is to educate a wide range of people and illustrate how the industry (and seaweed) is a good vehicle of hope for the future, Bremner-Mitchell said.
“We’ll be talking to a very broad audience. The purpose is to talk to people who are also outside the seaweed bubble,” she added.
“We want to inspire people to make a positive impact on the climate by inviting more seaweed into their lives.”
Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer