CRM is a team of marine biologists led by Prof. Levent Pieker. Apart from research, consultancy and mpact assesment, they have adapted their knowledge onto developing products from the sea. In their own words:
"We see the great marine potentials and search for ways to make them work in environmental projects as well as in cosmetics, food and pharmacy. In doing so we insist on - short and long term - positive environmental effects of producing and use of the products." (taken from the website)Specifically, their focus now lies on the cultivation of algae which CRM harvests, refines and has developed into their own line of cosmetics, oceanwell.
We chatted with Mr Pieker for a while as he explained the process of algae farming at CRM.
Algae type: Kombu Royal (Laminaria Saccharina)
Kombu reproduces in two cycles/generation: sexual (gametophyte) and asexual (sporophyte). Asexual plant releases spores which in turn develop into gametophytes.
At CRM, Kombu is cultvated by releasing flagellated spores in water tanks, where several hundred meters of rope slowly unwound into the tank. tank is illuminated with daylight lamp.
The rope is covered with a special (secret) mixture so spores LOVE to settle on it… spores start growing, attached to the rope. Once it has reached a certain stage of maturity, the rope is released into the ocean, attached to a semi-flaoting structure.
Kombu grows during the cold season, November-March/April, and is harvested quite young, before parasites start growing on it.
At CRM algae are processed with highly specialized machines, preserving as many of the bio active ingredients as possible. Cosmetics is the most lucrative, extracts such as agar or alginate are very low cost products.
Freezing is a good way to preserve algae, better than drying (in terms of bio active ingredients)
Our excursion took place in late summer, thus harvesting time was already over and we could not go out to see the farm site on the ocean. However, Levent Pieker was kind enough to give us a copy of some short underwater films they made to document the algae growing site in the ocean. This gave us a pretty clear impression about how the strucutre works.
See what happens under the water, film by Prof. Levent Pieker
For our nomadic floating garden it is important to cultivate species of algae that can travel, adapt to different circumstances... we asked Mr. Pieker if he knows of any nomadic algae?
Turns out that algae are usually quite adapted to local conditions. Especially salinity is important. In the Baltic sea, there is a significant drop in salinity from East to West. This might be a problem. On the other hand it is possible that there are types which are robust and can deal with fluctuating salinity. Time needs to be invested into finding the types. Also check some ‘nomadic’ seaweeds that travel with the currents.