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Seaweed – good for you, good for the planet

Jo Kelly is a Bribie Islander on a mission to build a world class seaweed industry in Queensland to regenerate oceans and create good jobs in coastal communities. Jo was recently awarded a Myer Innovation Fellowship, a prestigious award that goes to only three each year. The Myer Innovation Fellowships support the development of breakthrough solutions to Australia’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.

Jo is the founder of the Australian Seaweed Institute and is seeking to establish seaweed ocean farms and bio-innovation for Australian native seaweeds. As a passionate Bribie local and environmentalist, Jo is seeking to see the Bribie Island region established as the epicentre for seaweed ocean aquaculture and research in Queensland.

Seaweed has been eaten for centuries as it is a highly nutritious food source, containing omega3, high levels of protein, iodine and other key minerals. The Chinese, Japanese and South Korean people eat seaweed every day and seaweed is believed to be the secret ingredient to the healthiest population of people in the world in Okinawa, Japan. It is so good for gut health in animals as well as humans that it can reduce methane emissions, when fed to cattle, by over 80%.

The Australian Seaweed Institute’s team recently attended the International Seaweed Symposium in Jeju, South Korea and was fascinated to learn from the inspiring stories of new seaweed communities that are popping up in USA and Europe to provide new jobs and protect the local environment. Seaweed is a valuable product and is used in food, cosmetics, animal feed, bioplastics and organic fertilisers. Also, clothing, shoe fabrics and replacements for plastics products are now being made from seaweed in some countries. In the London Marathon recently, plastic bottles were replaced with seaweed pouches of sports drink in order to reduce the pollution footprint of this huge event.

Growing seaweed in the ocean is very similar to oyster farming and it does not damage or degrade the environment like intensive fish farming can. There is no fresh water required, no feed or fertiliser is added and there is no waste stream. Better still, seaweed ocean farms actually regenerate oceans by taking up the carbon dioxide and pollutants from the water and seaweed provides habitat for marine life to flourish.

Seaweed farms in oceans act like rainforests on land – they breathe out oxygen and give life. It is a very sustainable form of aquaculture and one we will see more of in Australia in coming years as the Queensland and Federal Government wants to double the Australian aquaculture industry over the next decade and seaweed ocean aquaculture is the most sustainable choice.

If you walk along the beaches around Bribie Island you will find the washed up remains of native seaweeds that grow in Moreton Bay. There is an abundance of native seaweed species in Moreton Bay that are highly nutritious, can help to protect our oceans for the future and generate new jobs.

The Australian Seaweed Institute is leading the way to start a new, regenerative seaweed industry and is working on a project for Moreton Bay. More information will be available soon and community input and support will be critical to see Bribie Island established as the centre of this innovative and sustainable new industry in Queensland. If you would like to know more please visit our website and sign up to our mailing list

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