The state government has announced a $1.5 million project to grow the South Australia's commercial seaweed industry, with regional areas to be at the forefront of production.
The two-year project aims to boost the sector and create new jobs, and will include establishing a local seaweed industry cluster, undertaking large-scale cultivation pilot trials, looking at ways of boosting commercial seaweed production, and establishing a land-based hatchery.
State government modelling indicates economic activity can generate an additional $120m to the state's economy and an extra 453 jobs over the next five years.
Through current industry partnerships, the sector is generating more than $105m in the next two to four years, it said.
The first licences to establish a commercial seaweed farm were granted this year and a partnership between seaweed producers and livestock companies forged.
Two licences were granted in January to allow a commercial seaweed farm to be established on Yorke Peninsula.
US-based company CH4 Global, a company focussed on farming marine seaweeds for commercial purposes to reduce greenhouse emissions in the livestock industry, has been involved in the local industry and has applied for aquaculture space across three Eyre Peninsula sites - at Boston Bay, Louth Bay and Tumby Bay, while Kangaroo Island has also been involved in production.
CH4 Global has identified South Australia as the primary market, as it told the Port Lincoln Times in 2019.
"The development of a South Australian seaweed industry has been seen to be advantageous for some time and South Australia has a number of competitive advantages when it comes to this type of ocean farming," CH4 SA general manager Dr Adam Main said at the time.
Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham said South Australia was well positioned to take advantage of the growing international interest in this sector.
He noted while turning seaweed into a valuable commodity may "seem strange to some", it was used in industries such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food production, animal and stock feed.
"The mass production of seaweed also benefits carbon recycling and offsetting the impact of greenhouse emissions," Mr Basham said.
"We have a highly diverse seaweed flora endemic to our waters, large areas of in-sea and coastal land for farming, a supportive regulatory environment for aquaculture development, an international reputation for high quality seafood and state of the art research and development capability.
"This new $1.5 million project, which is being led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute, will help better engage with the private sector to attract new players into the local industry and grow our commercial seaweed opportunities."
He said the project was on top of the state government's $2.6m investment into the Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre, which would help establish South Australia as a leader in commercial seaweed.
"Over the next two years we are looking to foster the engagement between commercial industry companies, technical experts and researchers in order to enhance the understanding of seaweed as a raw material along with identifying and resolving constraints that currently exist to large scale seaweed production," Mr Basham said.
"A local commercial seaweed industry could add significant value to our economy and hundreds more jobs."
CH4 Global also recently announced a world-first agreement to supply enough Asparagopsis seaweed supplement for up to 10,000 head of cattle to an agriculture hub near Port Pirie.
Cattle are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions with every one of the 1.5 billion cows on the planet producing about 100 kilograms of methane a year.
Research by the CSIRO found that the red seaweed Asparagopsis mixed with regular cattle feed at a rate of 100 grams per cow per day reduced methane production by 90 per cent.