Sea lettuce in a cultivation tank.
The green algae sea lettuce is an interesting species for new foods based on seaweed.
Photo: Susanne Liljenström

New research project will boost interest in eating seaweed


Researchers Henrik Pavia and Gunilla Toth have previously developed methods for growing macroalgae on the Swedish west coast. In a new research project on algae as food, they receive 20 million from the research financier Formas.
– Now we are taking the research a step further and aiming to produce products that the Swedish people want to eat, says Gunilla Toth, researcher at the Department of Marine Sciences.

What is the project about?

Portrait of Gunilla Toth
Gunilla Toth is senior lecturer at the Department of Marine Sciences. Her research is about seaweed.
Photo: Susanne Liljenström

"Together with our partners, we will develop food products where algae is the main ingredient. The challenge is that people in Sweden and the West have no tradition of eating seaweed. Therefore, we need products that are attractive and easy to use, for example, minced seaweed."

"The project builds on previous research where we developed techniques for growing sugar kelp and sea lettuce. Now we focus on new species, especially the red algae Palmaria. In addition, we want to scale up the technology for growing sea lettuce in process water from the food industry."

How will you work within the project?

Portrait of Henrik Pavia.
Professor Henrik Pavia at the Department of Marine Sciences coordinates the new project on developing foods from seaweed.
Photo: Susanne Liljenström

"It is a large project with partners from research, industry and authorities. In terms of cultivation, we will cooperate with the companies Nordic Seafarm and Sweden Pelagic. Researchers at Chalmers focus on how the newly harvested algae should best be taken care of and treated to obtain a nutritious and safe raw material. Together with Chalmers, the Swedish Food Agency will develop limit values for any heavy metals and will also investigate this matter of bioavailability, that is how much the body actually absorbs. Another example is the seafood company Marenor, which will develop a number of "model products" for Swedish consumers."

Why is this research important?

"We need to develop new sustainable ways of producing food for the earth's growing population. Farming on land requires, among other things, incredible amounts of water: To produce the food that one person eats in a single day, between 2,000 and 5,000 liters of water is used. Then it is a big advantage to farm in the sea. Algae do not need to be watered or fertilized, on the contrary, they benefit the environment by absorbing nutrients and contributing to reduced eutrophication.

What is the goal for your project?

"That people should eat more foods based on seaweed. That there should be a demand so that the algae industry can get started and that algae is used as a vegetarian or vegan raw material."

Text: Susanne Liljenström

Project name
Sustainable use of marine and industrial waters to unlock the potential of seaweeds as a future food source.

Granted funds
SEK 20 million for a five-year period 2024 – 2028. The project is financed by Formas, through the call "Blue innovation" which aims to find new solutions that will contribute to a sustainable use of our water resources. Out of 40 applications, ten projects were granted.

Project partners
In addition to the University of Gothenburg, the project also includes Chalmers, Linköping University and the Swedish Food Agency, as well as the companies Nordic Seafarm, Sweden Pelagic, Marenor and ALS Scandinavia. 
University of Gothenburt coordinates the project.