For lovers of sushi, or those living in Asia, the sight of algae in a meal is not uncommon. Humans around the globe have consumed wild algae for centuries, but it is in Japan that the first farming of algae is believed to have begun. The story goes that in the 1600's fishers from a small town in what is now the Tokyo metropolitan area constructed a fence in the sea to create a fish farm to meet the demands of Shogun Tokugawa’s appetite for fish. Over time the fishers noticed seaweeds growing on the fence – and it was very easy to collect.
Algaculture was born, and today statistics from The Food and Agriculture Organisation reveal that algaculture has been steadily increasing. In 2012, over 23.8 million tonnes of algae was produced, with an estimated value of $6.4 billion.
This often overlooked industry doesn’t just produce large seaweeds for human consumption, but a range of different algae destined for a variety of different uses.
The article was written for (and appears in full in) The Fish Site.
Image: Seaweed farming at Uroa, a fishermen village on Zanzibar's center-east coast. Credit Moongateclimber/Wikimedia (Public Domain)