Is Seaweed (Yes, Seaweed) The Answer To All Our Problems?
Joost Wouters had a successful career. The Dutchman worked for Procter & Gamble, Pepsi-Cola, and had his own management consulting firm. Then he discovered seaweed and left everything behind.
“If you think about igniting an economic revolution inspired by nature then seaweed is one of the catalysts,” says Joost Wouters. The tall Dutch entrepreneur sits at a coffee table in Zermatt’s Mont Cervin Palace Hotel — talking fast and passionate. He is attending the Zermatt Summit to present his vision.
“Seaweed is the fastest growing biomass on the planet.”
In an earlier life, he worked for the multi-billion-dollar companies Procter & Gamble and Pepsi. Then he tried to promote a more human approach to management with his consulting firm. But it was the work of former NASA scientist Dr. Douglas Kalkwarf, that turned his life around.
“It was Dr. Kalkwarf who came up with the idea to grow seaweed and also invented the bio-digester. I fell in love with this concept. It is feasible and scalable. That was the trigger, and as you dive deeper into the topic, you see all this potential,” explains Mr. Wouters and continues in his enthusiastic way: “Imagine, there’s no mechanism known to humanity better addressing climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide via photosynthesis like plants are doing it — seaweed as well. And seaweed is the fastest growing biomass on the planet.”
The process is as simple as it is revolutionary: The biomass is digested by bacteria which generate biogas. Biomass is already turned into gas or being burned to produce heat. Nevertheless, there is one main advantage to seaweed: “It doesn’t need land, fresh water or fertilizer to grow. It only needs saltwater, sunlight, and nutrients,” tells Mr. Wouters.
Seaweed has been cultivated for centuries. Today, 99 percent of the global production takes place in Asia where it processed into food. The farmers work manually; they grow the seaweed on lines. “Per hectare per year, they produce twenty to fifty tons. That amount is not enough to create a business model. We need to increase the number…