Not just for sushi: The push to farm seaweed off Queensland's coast

Not just for sushi: The push to farm seaweed off Queensland's coast

Not just for sushi: The push to farm seaweed off Queensland's coast

Updated 30 August 2017, 10:00 AEST

The Sunshine State has "ideal" conditions to be the first in Australia to get into the multi-billion-dollar seaweed business, researcher says.

Massive farms off Queensland's coast could be growing tonnes of seaweed for the international market within the next year, an aquaculture researcher says.

About 20-million tonnes of seaweed are produced around the globe each year, an industry worth more than $6 billion.

But there is not a single commercial seaweed operation in Australia.

University of the Sunshine Coast associate professor of aquaculture Nicholas Paul said his research is geared towards starting an industry in Queensland.

"In a nutshell, we're trying to find Australian local species of seaweed, that are high value products, to start a new seaweed industry off the coast," he said.

"If we can do that, that means we'll have some aquaculture growth other than salmon, because at the moment the only real growth is in the salmon industry down in Tasmania."

'Not just for sushi'

Mr Paul said 95 per cent of the global seaweed industry's product was cultivated in seaweed farms and used for more than just wrapping sushi.

"Half of it is used for edible products, just like sushi and wakame," Mr Paul said.

"The other half of seaweed is being used to extract gels, and by gels we mean polysaccharides like Agar and Carrageenan.

"These are used as thickeners, they're used in everything from shampoo and toothpaste, to ice cream."

Mr Paul said seaweed needed plenty of sun, making Queensland the ideal place to grow crops, such as Moreton Bay.

"There are 450 hectares of oyster lease area already zoned, and already in place in the bay," he said.

"That area could produce around 70 tonnes of seaweed each year."

He said he was hoping an industry could start in Queensland in the next year.

"There's a couple of species here that there's a huge demand for, and with the right funding we can actually scale up pretty quickly."