There are 7 types of popular edible seaweed: Wakame, Kombu, Nori, Dulse, Hijiki, Irish Moss, and Sea Lettuce. Seaweed is a part of the diets of many cultures which border the sea, and is especially popular in Japan. Seaweed has a salty, rich, and savory taste due both to the environment it grows in and amino acids called glutamates which greatly enhance its unique flavors. Often labeled as a super food, seaweed contains a wide variety of minerals (sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, iodine, and iron to name a few) and important vitamins including A, C, E, and B12. Seaweed is not only a relatively easy and abundant food to grow, but one which will offer excellent nutritional benefits to those who consume it.
From an agricultural perspective, the cultivation of edible seaweed is far more environmentally conscious than traditional farming and traditional foods. It can either be maintained and harvested from naturally occurring clusters, or grown in isolated areas specifically for cultivation. No deforestation and fertilization of land is needed to successfully grow seaweed crops. The plant itself is excellent at absorbing CO2, which has continued to build up in the ocean along with increasing acidity. Since seaweed absorbs so much carbon, it can also be used as a carbon donor to other environments which are very carbon poor. Seaweed also has great potential to be used as a biofuel and if brought into the energy industry could provide an extremely environmentally conscious alternative to traditional fuels.
Currently, Asian-Pacific countries lead the world in agricultural seaweed production, with countries including Australia joining in on the process. If the coastal countries of the would invest in commercial seaweed production, the impact could be drastic. The problem is that not every culture has accepted seaweed into its diet. For most of the eastern world, seaweed is not considered a particularly valuable food source. If cultures and societies could accept seaweed, production would increase dramatically.
Over the past few years, scientists and farmers alike have become more aware of the positive effect seaweed cultivation has on the environment. As the planet continues to change both on land and in the sea, it is important to do all we can as a species to try and reverse the damage we have caused. Agricultural production of seaweed is just one step in the process.