A 2023 study from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University concluded that cultivating seaweed to replace animal agriculture could help solve hunger and malnutrition while also slowing climate change. 

The study, titled “ Seaweed’s contribution to food security in low- and middle-income countries: Benefits from production, processing and trade”, was published in the journal Global Food Security. It says that producing and selling seaweed could boost incomes for farmers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly in coastal regions of Africa and Southeast Asia.

Here are other highlights of the study: Seaweed production globally has grown rapidly in recent decades. Most growth was in Asia, but there have been production increases in Africa and Latin America. There is growing attention to the potential for seaweed to provide non-terrestrial nutrients without the need for land, freshwater, or chemicals. Data gaps and coverage impede a full understanding of trends and patterns in what is produced or consumed. There appears to be potential for seaweed-related activities to grow in many coastal LMICs. Seaweed can be a high-value export crop that contributes to LMIC food security by increasing export potential and household purchasing power.

Patrick Webb, the Alexander McFarlane Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School and senior author of the study, said, “One of the biggest problems of food insecurity in LMICs is the unaffordability of healthy diets…There are roughly 3.5 billion people in the world who can’t afford a healthy diet even if they choose local foods at local prices. For many of those people, cultivating and selling seaweed would lead to higher incomes and improved nutrition through purchases on the market.”

The study found that seaweed is a more sustainable alternative to raising livestock, as its cultivation requires no land, freshwater, or chemical fertilisers, and could become particularly profitable as demand for nutrient-rich seaweed products grows around the world.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.