Algae, an overlooked tool to future food solutions

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Bite Copenhagen puts seaweed on tomorrow’s dinner table

At Bite Copenhagen you can experience the latest solutions to future food challenges, and despite seaweed’s modest and perhaps slightly bleak reputation it can be an upcoming superstar in the sustainable food heaven.

In Asia, the potential for seaweed has been known for a long time, but the possibilities have in recent years also been revealed to chefs and food producers in the Nordic countries. Today, more and more manufacturers are working with the tasteful, sustainable and nutritious seaweed.

Bite Copenhagen spoke to Tari Faroe Seaweed and Seaman Seaweed Chips, two innovative seaweed brands that you can meet at this year's B2B food fair on August 28th and 29th in Bella Center Copenhagen.

Faroese seaweed with huge potential

There is a little delay on Agnes Mols Mortensen's voice in the phone. The signal has to travel more than 1300 kilometers of surging water from Tari Faroe Seaweed in the Faroe Islands, where she is Science Director.

Agnes is a trained biologist, and seaweed is the great passion she shares with her brother Mortan, who, as a business diver, works under the sea surface and act as the practical part of the family business.

The company cultivates and processes seaweed, which is primarily sold as ready-to-eat products and as ingredients for the food industry. Agnes takes care of the scientific part of the seaweed production, which according to her is important for discovering the many possibilities of seaweed:

“We spend a lot of time investigating what seaweed can really do. There is a tremendously untapped potential that we have only begun to understand. Besides the potential as food, there are also exciting opportunities with seaweed in animal feed, and then there is a world of untapped potential with the bioactive components in the seaweed, which can positively affect health. We also have projects under way with seaweed as fertilizer in the cultivation of vegetables without the use of soil. And with seaweed as a component of integrated aquaculture together with salmon. The idea behind it is to cultivate several organisms in the same area in order to utilize the farming area in a more sustainable manner. But the most important thing for us is seaweed as food."

Sustainable Michelin food

Seaweed as a commodity on the plate is something the hospitality industry also caught onto. Tari Faroe Seaweed works together with the Faroese gourmet restaurant KOKS, which recently received 2 Michelin stars and has been named this year's restaurant in the Nordic region, and Leif Sørensen, the iconic Faroese star chef, who signed the Nordic Kitchen Manifesto, which in 2004 became the start of the new Nordic kitchen.

While the chefs explore taste, texture and gastronomic potential, Tari-Faroe Seaweed explores the biological building blocks and the tangent's nutritional value and food safety. In this way, bridges are built between manufacturers and cooks, and this can be the key to putting seaweed on the menu card of the future to a greater extent.

The more focus that comes on seaweed’s advantages from different angles, the more possibilities there are. The health value is indisputable, and seaweed contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals, a good protein and fatty acid profile, bioactive substances and fibers that stimulate intestinal flora. But also with the sustainable glasses on the seaweed is a generous raw material, explains Agnes:

“Seaweed can be grown without feed and fertilizer, as the seaweed produces its own energy by photosynthesis. Here, CO2 is absorbed from the environment and oxygen is produced. Nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate are also absorbed by the environment when the seaweed grows. The seas around the Faroe Islands, with their salt content, stable sea temperatures, good nutrient supply and purity, are near ideal conditions for seaweed cultivation. ”

The ambition is to spread the sustainable Faroese seaweed more, but it still makes sense to maintain the entire production on the Faroe Islands, Agnes continues:

"Tari - Faroe Seaweed has great interest in reaching markets outside the Faroe Islands, for example Denmark, but in order to maintain the sustainability principle both biologically, socially and economically, it is important for us to produce the entire value chain locally in the Faroe Islands before export."

Healthier seaweed chips

One of the companies that benefit from the Nordic seaweed is the Danish Seaman Seaweed Chips from Grenå. They make seaweed chips with pure natural ingredients flavored with, among other things, lobster and squid, and the chips have in a short time been sought after throughout the world.

Seaweed enthusiast and co-founder Heine Max Olesen also consider seaweed as an untapped resource with high nutritional value:

“Seaweed is a sustainable way of eating healthy and can therefore help solve food problems worldwide. Seaweed contains between 10 and 100 times more vitamins and minerals than fruits and vegetables, and while our chips are still dipped in oil, they are still a healthier alternative to regular chips. The primary thing for us is to put the taste in the forefront and oil needs to get the spices to hang. ”

Just the taste is one of the challenges of seaweed. It is unknown waters for many, and therefore the pliers must be packed a little, says Heine:

“The chips are made on a base of bladders but also potatoes so it does not become too spacy for people. In the beginning, we could hardly get people to taste the chips because they have seaweed in it. But today the seaweed pops on all sides. ”

With the sea on the horizon

Heine grew up by the sea and already started out as a little boy with his grandfather in his fishing boat. Later he has been a fishtrader and has had a fish restaurant, and the passion for the sea is also felt in Seaman Seaweed Chips, which offers more than just good taste:

“My ambition was from the beginning to create a feeling that you do not“ just ”buy a bag of chips, but that you come on a journey. One must be able to feel my love for the sea, and therefore we also support Plastic Change, an organization that is fighting against pollution in the oceans. Our bags are made of paper, and we work towards being 100% plastic-free in 2019. ”

Exhibit at Bite Copenhagen 2019

Tang has with good reason marked itself on the culinary map, and At Bite Copenhagen you can taste yourself why Heine and Agnes have cast their love on seaweed. And become even wiser, why in the future we should look even more closely at the surface for solutions to our food challenges.

If you want to be part of Bite Copenhagen and showcase your goods and ideas, you can apply for a stand here.

Christian Vejlund