BLUE ECONOMY: New funding to boost innovative seaweed and peat businesses

The way we were – harvesting peat (or turf as it is known in Connemara).  Pictures Heather Greer

Scottish Government funding of over £600,000 is set to trigger the expansion of an innovative seaweed company.

Mara Seaweed will use the funding to increase its processing facility and explore new markets.

Seaweed is considered a sustainable high-nutrition food source with a host of health benefits and they also have a positive impact on the atmosphere, taking up significant quantities of carbon dioxide every year.

The funding is being awarded through the £14 million Marine Fund Scotland and will allow Edinburgh-based Mara to expand its seaweed processing facility in Fife and increase its footprint in the global market place.

International demand for high-quality seaweed for use as a food source and health supplement is increasing and the funding will help Mara achieve its growth targets.

Announcing the funding, Rural Affairs Secretary, Mairi Gougeon said, “This funding will support Mara Seaweed in furthering their commitment of creating more innovative and exciting products.

“I am delighted these sustainably-sourced quality products are attracting the attention of consumers in the national and international market.

“Our support to the marine sector remains a priority and we are currently seeking a multi-year increase for the lost EU funding.

Peatland experts believe ambitious targets to restore damaged landscapes can be met – but only if more specialist contractors are hired.

The Scottish Government has pledged to spend £250m restoring peatlands over the next ten years to help fight climate change.

Peatlands filter much of the water we drink, provide habitats for wildlife and draw in more carbon from the environment than forests.

When they are eroded and burned to be used as fuel and compost, they emit more carbon than they store, and experts believe 80% of Scotland’s peatland is damaged.

Diggers are being used to smooth and recover peat at the Cairngorms National Park in a bid to restore them to their natural state.

Stephen Corcoran, peatlands programme manager at the park, which features some of the highest peatlands in the UK, said: “It’s a pathway to recovery, but the process does take a while.

“We’ll need more skilled contractors to help us with this project going forward because it is a massive area that needs to be restored.”

Minister Mari Gougon says Government has pledged to spend £250m restoring peatlands over the next ten years.
Meanwhile, peatland action project officer Sue White is working to restore damaged landscape in Shetland.

Peatland that should be naturally covered in protective vegetation has been exposed and is emitting carbon.

“This sort of landscape is losing somewhere around 23.8 tonnes of carbon equivalent every year and we’ve got 40,000 hectares of it in Shetland,” she said.

“That alone is putting a huge amount of CO2 into the air, but we can turn it around quite simply.

“This funding is a good start. Going forward it is going to need private investment, but investors are very interested because you can sell carbon.”

The Scottish Government said it hopes the funding will help to restore 200,000 hectares of peatland by 2030.

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