Startup Noordzeeboerderij was one of the proud winners of the The Hague Innovators competition last year. They used their prize money to develop seaweed cultivation off the coast of The Hague. We talked to founder Koen Van Swam and asked him to reflect on 2016.
Noordzeeboerderij won first prize in the The Hague Innovators competition of 2016. It received 35,000 Euros to develop sustainable offshore seaweed cultivation. Noordzeeboerderij aims to show that seaweed is a delicious food and a promising raw material in the circular economy. It wants to make Dutch companies frontrunners in the global seaweed industry.
To this end, it has developed a pilot project to demonstrate the benefits of offshore seaweed cultivation. One-third of the pilot was funded by the prize money. The remainder was covered by funds from the Rabobank Fund for Innovation, in addition to private investments in the project.
From seeds to weeds
In October of last year, an 80-meter line of seaweed seed was put into the ocean 15 kilometers off the coast of The Hague. Since then, the seeds have grown into weeds and have proven to be able to survive heavy weather conditions in the Dutch waters.
In mid-February, the weeds were inspected. “This was very exciting,” Koen says, “the last inspection had been in mid-December and we honestly didn’t know if the weeds were even still there at that point. Let alone, if they had been growing steadily.”
Luckily, it turned out that the weeds are in good shape. “From just several millimeters last October, the weeds have now grown into large strips of over 40 centimeters,” Koen elaborates. “The weeds look beautiful. They look shiny and are even in color.”
“This mid-term result makes us very hopeful,” Koen says. “There’s still two months left for the weeds to grow before we’ll harvest in mid-April. During those months, conditions will only improve due to the approaching Spring time. That’s why the prospects for the end result are very promising.”
“Ideally, the outcomes of the pilot project will expose the great benefits of seaweed cultivation,” Koen says. “We hope to encourage other parties to embrace seaweed and turn offshore cultivation into a sustainable business case.”
“Winning the competition has helped us to build trust,” Koen explains. “The The Hague Innovators competition has offered us the chance to actually demonstrate that our idea makes sense. Our successful pilot will be proof of it.”