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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has announced a €25.6 million support package for the Irish pelagic fisheries sector.

The Pelagic Fisheries Support Scheme, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund, will compensate owners of Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) pelagic vessels and polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels that have suffered losses of mackerel quota over the period 2021-2023 as a result of the quota transfers to the EU under Brexit.

The support is designed to stabilise cash flow and assist vessel owners to re-structure their operations in light of the loss of earnings associated with the reduction of available quota under the TCA. The short-term aid is essential financial support to allow the 23 RSW vessels and the 27 polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels sufficient time to put in place longer-term restructuring measures.

Minister McConalogue said: “This €25.6 million support for the RSW pelagic fleet segment recognises the impact of quota transfers to the UK from the EU under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), and in particular that this segment of the Irish fleet has suffered the largest TCA related quota reductions for the main target species of mackerel.”

The Pelagic Fisheries Support Scheme was one of the recommendations of the Seafood Taskforce appointed by the Minister. It is restricted to eligible vessels in the RSW pelagic segment and Polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels fishing for mackerel in 2021 and 2022. Payments under the scheme represent the value of reduced fishing opportunities that resulted from the actual loss of mackerel quota in 2021 and 2022 arising from the quota transfer of quota to the UK. In monetary terms, the loss of mackerel per vessel over the same period, equates to the loss of one month’s fishing opportunities per year, with payment calculated on the average monthly turnover per vessel, less cost of fuel and provisions, over the period 2018-2020, compensating for one month per annum for 2021 and 2022.

The Minister concluded: “The RSW pelagic fleet segment has suffered significant quota loss of some 20,130 tonnes worth approximately €27.3 million, and this much-needed support will go some way to supporting the segment to adjust to the changed situation we find ourselves in so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet into the future. Now that I have secured State Aid approval from the EU Commission, I will instruct BIM to administer this scheme without delay.”

Scheme information, once launched, will be available on BIMs website at BIM - The Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund

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Award-winning Co. Louth seafood company, Morgan’s Fine Fish, has completed a €270,000 investment to make it more energy-efficient and competitive in an increasingly tough market.

The investment has been supported with funding of almost €100,000 from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme, implemented by BIM, Ireland’s seafood development agency.

The scheme, which will deliver up to €45 million in funding to the seafood processing sector, is funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. It was recommended by the Seafood Taskforce established by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie Monologue T.D.

Gillian Morgan, Sales Manager of Morgan’s Fine Fish, said the efficiencies the company has achieved with support from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme will help it compete on a level playing field with international competition.

“We are now using premium technology to offer fresh or frozen fish products to the market. The investments we have made with the support of BIM will futureproof the company and help us remain competitive and to deliver new products.” she said,

One of the Brexit Process Capital Support Scheme grants supported Morgan’s in introducing solar panels and replacing a 20-year-old refrigeration system to make it more energy efficient.

The company also availed of funding to invest in state-of-the-art technology to maximise the use of white fish landings, and develop value-added products for the European market place.

Morgan’s was founded 163 years ago and is thought to be the oldest fish business in Ireland. It has 80 staff and is located in a scenic rural location overlooking Carlingford Lough and the Cooley mountains.

The business started with Gillian’s great-great grandfather in 1860, who operated from the local harbour with a small fishing boat. He also bought fish from other vessels. He sold his catch from a horse and cart as far away as Monaghan and Baileborough.

Gillian’s Dad, Pat, and uncle’s Arthur and Joe, are still working with Morgan’s Fine Fish today. Joe Morgan is the main fish buyer.

Gillian says developing convenient pre-packed product is the route to success. “Consumers can be a little bit intimidated by fish. What they want is high quality, ready to cook fish meals that they can put into the oven for a delicious meal. “

Recently Morgan’s Fine Fish was awarded the prestigious Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM)- sponsored Seafood Innovation Award at Irish food awards’ event, Blas na hÉireann, for its popular salmon darnes topped with garlic and herb butter and wrapped with Irish chorizo ribbon. The product is sold as part of Dunnes Stores' premium 'Simply Better' range.

The award recognises excellence in seafood innovation through the entire supply chain from product creation to the use of process technology to developing new markets.

“We were so proud to get this award,” said Gillian. “The partnership with Dunnes has been fantastic. The award was a real example of how embracing innovation and new technologies to create fantastic new products can give a competitive advantage. And it also showed the importance of partnering with a national brand like Dunnes.”

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An Irish aquatech company which has developed cutting-edge technology to provide a groundbreaking solution to measuring nitrate in water has been announced as the winner of the inaugural BIM Aquatech Business of the Year.

Aquamonitrix, based in Carlow, delivers a dataset to the water industry on nitrates and nitrites that are toxic to fish, but which were previously impossible to measure in real time.

The company was announced as the BIM Aquatech Business of the Year at a conference in Killarney titled “Aquatech – Ireland’s Global Opportunity”. The conference followed a two-week BIM Innovation Studio delivered by aquaculture accelerator Hatch Blue and supported by the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund.

Eight aquatech companies took part.

Mark Bowkett, Director of Aquamonitrix which has been named BIM Aquatech Business of the YearMark Bowkett, Director of Aquamonitrix which has been named BIM Aquatech Business of the Year

Aquamonitrix is an aquatech spin-out from the oil and environmental analysis company TE Laboratories, which started in 1991 carrying out fuel analysis. The company moved into environmental analysis and then developed a solution to monitoring water quality two years ago. Since then, the Aquamonitrix analyser has been bought by fish farms around the world.

Aquamonitrix Director, Mark Bowkett, said the company is delighted to be named the first BIM Aquatech Business of the Year. “This means a lot of us, especially as we are new to the aquaculture sector. Our participation in the BIM Innovation Studio Programme was a gamechanger, and helped us to develop this opportunity. It has been a steep learning curve. But the Innovation Studio helped us to determine that we had a value proposition for the aquaculture industry.”

Today the company employs more than 50 people and has customers from as far afield as Norway, the Netherlands and Canada.

Meanwhile, the conference heard that Ireland’s growing expertise in the developing aquatech sector means it has the potential to become a global leader in the field, with Irish aquatech companies turning over €200m last year.

BIM CEO Caroline Bocquel said over €15m has been invested in aquatech businesses and more than 200 high-tech jobs created in the sector over the last six years.

"Ireland has the potential to be the “Silicon Valley” of the aquatech world"

“Ireland is at a very exciting stage when it comes to aquatech. There are currently 62 aquatech companies operating here, all using technology to enable sustainable seafood farming at a time when the sector is facing many challenges.”

She added: “Ireland has the potential to be a world leader in aquatech and BIM is driving the sector’s development. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Food Vision 2030 strategy is to “promote Ireland as a knowledge base for aquaculture technology and research and attract external investment into the sector.”

Congratulating Aquamonitrix on the award, she said the company is an example of the energy, innovation and talent that exists in the aquatech sector today.

BIM’s Development and Innovation Director Richard Donnelly said: “The scale of the opportunity is enormous. We believe that with proper supports Ireland has the potential to be the “Silicon Valley” of the aquatech world."

"We are starting to see some very significant investments and some brilliant ideas. For example, the use of AI to monitor and provide early warnings on the health of aquaculture fish stocks. The BIM Innovation Studio, now in its 6th year, has played a major role in supporting companies in developing technology and guiding them on attracting investors and commercial scalability.”

The other two Aquatech Business of the Year finalists were Aqualicence, a marine and offshore windfarm consultancy firm supporting on all aspects of licensing applications and Konree Innovation, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to outsmart infestation by sea lice, a parasite that affects salmon and other fish.

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Ireland’s potential in “aquatech” is the theme of a Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) conference in Kerry today, when one of the keynote speakers will ask why there has been no innovation in this area here in the last two decades.

As The Irish Times reports, Australian marine biologist Neil Sims recalls a conference here on “farming the deep blue” in 2004, where he says that international participants were “blown away” by the enthusiasm and innovative spirit of their Irish counterparts.

A report commissioned by BIM and the Marine Institute for that conference had made an “overwhelming” case for developing and expanding offshore aquaculture.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had estimated two decades ago that the demand for fishery products would rise to 180 million tonnes by 2030. One of the report’s key conclusions was that finfish farming must move offshore for environmental reasons, including reduced impact on wild fisheries inshore.

Richard Donnelly, Development and Innovation Director of BIMRichard Donnelly, Development and Innovation Director of BIM

“I’d like to know what happened in Ireland since then,”Sims told The Irish Times, before travelling to Ireland, where he is one of several keynote speakers at the BIM conference in Killarney today.

Sims, a specialist in applied marine research, is based in Hawaii. His company, Ocean Era, has developed what is described as the first integrated hatchery and open ocean fish farm in North America.

“In the offshore aqua-technology space, I cannot think of one single innovation that has come out of Ireland in the last 20 years,” he says.

“It strikes me as disappointing, when the world desperately needs sustainable aquaculture, and when a number of leading environmental groups which had been having pitched battles over fish farming 20 years ago in the US now recognise that blue food is required and that a global climate crisis requires a softer planetary footprint,”Sims told the newspaper.

Ireland’s growing expertise in the developing aquatech sector means it has the potential to become a global leader in the field, with Irish aquatech companies turning over €200m last year, BIM has said..

Over €15m has been invested in aquatech businesses in the last six years, and more than 200 hi-tech jobs created in the sector, it says.

Aquatech is described as any technology or innovation driving sustainable seafood farming, and it can be applied progressively to the breeding, raising, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants.

Participants at “Aquatech – Ireland’s Global Opportunity” in the Brehon Hotel, Killarney, Co Kerry include the Senior Vice President of the world’s first aquatech unicorn company, E-fishery; a US sustainable seafood expert; a global off-shore aquaculture pioneer, along with a host of Irish aquatech entrepreneurs, and representatives from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).

BIM chief executive Caroline Bocquel said: “We have over 60 companies working in aquatech here, and the sector is worth about €200m. Hatch Blue, who we work closely with, is a major aquatech-focused venture capital firm based in Cork, which has already made Irish-based aquaculture investments."

"We’re starting to see some very significant investments and some brilliant ideas – for example, the use of AI to monitor and provide early warnings on the health of aquaculture fish stocks,” Bocquel said.

The conference is linked to the BIM Innovation Studio, an intensive two week no-fee programme that aims to develop the technological readiness, industry fitness and commercial scalability of emerging aquatech startups.

Funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) and now in its sixth year, the initiative seeks out projects in Ireland and other European countries that aim to upscale the region’s aquaculture or alt-seafood industries.

To date, the total investment attracted is close to 50 projects and companies that have completed the Innovation Studio over the past six years – including 2023 - is €15.1M, with over 200 hi-tech jobs created, BIM says.

Several companies involved in this year’s Innovation Studio attended a delegation to Southeast Asia earlier this year with Hatch to grow their network and learn more about their potential market. The delegation has secured potential business opportunities on foot of this, BIM says.

The Innovation Studio supports the ambitious goals set out in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Food Vision 2030 Strategy, namely to ‘promote Ireland as a knowledge base for aquaculture technology and research and attract external investment into the sector’, BIM says.

Read The Irish Times report here

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Three Irish aquatech companies at the forefront of sustainable seafood farming have been named as finalists for the inagurual BIM Aquatech Business of the Year award. The winning company will be announced at the “Aquatech – Ireland’s Global Opportunity” conference in Killarney, Co. Kerry, on October 19.

The event will feature some of the world’s most renowned aquaculture experts who will be speaking on the latest trends in the industry.

The three finalists are Aquamonitrix, Aqualicence, and Konree Innovation.

Aquamonitrix, located in Co. Carlow, is led by CEO Mark Bowkett and offers a groundbreaking new analyzer for measuring nitrate and nitrite in fresh, saline, and waste-water.

Aqualicence, founded by Kate Dempsey and based in Co. Wicklow, is a marine and offshore windfarm consultancy firm that provides support for all aspects of licensing applications.

Konree Innovation, based in Co. Galway, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to combat sea lice infestation, a parasite that affects salmon and other fish and impacts production.

According to Richard Donnelly, Development and Innovation Director at BIM, there are currently 62 aquatech companies operating in Ireland, all using technology to enable sustainable seafood farming at a time when the sector is facing many challenges. Between them, these companies turned over €212 million last year.

“We believe that with proper support, Ireland has the potential to be the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the aquatech world," Donnelly said. He added that the three finalists are examples of the energy, innovation, and talent in the sector in Ireland.

The BIM Aquatech Business of the Year award is part of the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Aquatech Innovation Studio Programme in Kilorglin, which is being delivered by aquaculture accelerator Hatch Blue and supported by the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund. The program, now in its fifth year, provides emerging aquatech companies with support to develop their businesses.

The conference will feature industry leaders such as Kristen Virega, SVP Global Shrimp efishery, Neil Sims, Founder and CEO of Ocean Era, and Jennifer Bushman, Sustainable Aquaculture Strategist and Communicator. BIM CEO Caroline Bocquel will also be among the key speakers.

The panel discussion will focus on what’s required for Ireland to take advantage of the global opportunity in aquaculture, and how the ecosystem can be nurtured. Panellists include:

  • Antonios Chalaris, Aqua Business Manager of Devenish Nutrition, an agri-technology company based in Belfast.
  • Róisín O Shea, a Senior Investment Manager in the Food and Agri team at Ireland’s Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).
  • Fearghal O Donncha, a research scientist at IBM Research Europe. Research includes high-resolution modelling of coastal systems and data-driven management of fish farms and
  • Jennifer O Brien, CEO of food tech company Sea & Believe.
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One of Ireland’s oldest seafood businesses, Morgan’s Fine Fish, has been awarded the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Seafood Innovation Award for 2023.

The Co. Louth based company scooped the prestigious award for its popular salmon darne product, topped with garlic and herb butter and wrapped with Irish chorizo ribbon, which is sold under the Dunnes Stores premium ‘Simply Better’ range.

BIM CEO, Caroline Bocquel, announced the 163-year-old company, which is based in Omeath, as the winner of the prestigious award at the Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards in Dingle, Co. Kerry.

The Award recognises excellence in seafood innovation through the entire supply chain from product creation to the use of process technology to developing new markets.

Presenting the award, Ms Bocquel said: “In what is a very competitive space it is vital that our seafood processers are encouraged to be more innovative and to incorporate new technologies which result in a seafood product that attracts new markets and increases sales.”

“Morgan’s Fine Fish is a company with a rich heritage and with knowledge and experience passed down from generation to generation. But they have also embraced innovation and new technologies to create fantastic new products which are giving them a competitive advantage.”

She added: “In winning this award Morgan's clearly demonstrated knowledge of the basic concepts of food product development, supported by a dynamic business and marketing plan. They built a strong partnership with Dunnes Stores that allowed them reach high market penetration via Dunnes ‘Simply Better’ premium food range. The company has a significant production capacity, with strong financial and sales growth.”

Sales manager of Morgan’s Fine Fish, Gillian Morgan, said the company was honoured to win the prestigious award. “Blas na hÉireann is a true showcase for all Irish food producers and a celebration of the best of Irish food. To win here is fantastic.”

Gillian, a 5th generation of Morgan’s to work in the company, also thanked Dunne's Stores for their support. Morgan's has been selling various products in Dunne's under the "Simply Better" range for almost a year.

"This award is the culmination of hard work. It is important to keep innovating in what is a very competitive space," said Gillian.

In the last year Morgan’s Fine Fish has invested in an energy improvement scheme and packaging and smoking technologies with funding support from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, which is implemented by BIM.

Morgan’s Fine Fish were presented with a cheque for €800 and they also won €4,000 worth of BIM’s Seafood Innovation Hub assistance.

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Atlantis Seafood, one of the most reputed seafood businesses based in Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford has partnered with Killiney-based pet food company, Harley & Marley, to create a new range of pet food made wholly from fish. The new pet food will be sold under the Harley & Marley brand, which will be available in Dunnes Stores, independent shops, pet stores, and veterinarian clinics across Ireland from the end of September.

The new pet food is made from the by-products of fish processing that would otherwise go to waste. With the help of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Atlantis Seafood has been able to provide mentoring and technical support for the creation of this new pet food. Last year, Atlantis received a grant of €233,394 under the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme, implemented by BIM, to modernise its factory and make it more environmentally friendly.

The new pet food is a sustainable and healthy option for pet owners who are looking for all-natural products. Unlike other pet foods made with fish, Harley & Marley offers a 100% natural product with fish as the main single ingredient, possibly with small amounts of oats, parsley, and seaweed.

The pet food is produced through gentle air-drying rather than cooking, which means that it doesn't lose any of its natural goodness. The production of the Harley & Marley pet food range will be outsourced to two companies in Ireland, keeping the operation within the country and totally Irish. All products will be packed in recyclable pouches.

John Kenny, the owner of Atlantis Seafood said, "This is minimal processing at its best. The pet food is junk-free and made up of fish with few added ingredients. There is no wheat, wheat gluten, unnecessary fillers, additives, artificial colours or flavours added."

Atlantis has been in business for 30 years and has built its reputation on delivering quality fresh fish and seafood to top chefs and retailers across Ireland. The company employs around 100 people today. With the launch of this new pet food range, Atlantis will be able to advance its mission to be sustainable by dramatically reducing the 50 tonnes of by-product created from the processing of fish each week, with only half of the fish catch used and processed.

Once the pet food range launches on the Irish market, the export market will be explored. "The pet food market is growing globally, and there is huge potential to export," said John. 

The partnership between Atlantis Seafood and Harley & Marley is a great example of how two companies can work together to create a sustainable and natural product that benefits both the environment and pet owners.

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Irish pelagic fishers and processors are joining an international scientific initiative to provide vital information which helps inform the management of Northeast Atlantic mackerel, one of Ireland’s most valuable species.

BIM is working in collaboration with the Marine Institute and pelagic fishers and processors to install mackerel scanners in processing plants in Killybegs, Co Donegal.

Two units have been installed with further units to be fitted in factories over the next two years, with grant aid from the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

“Mackerel remains Ireland’s most valuable wild caught export, valued at €95m in 2022,” said Dr Michael Gallagher, pelagic sector manager with BIM. “Given the importance of mackerel to the Irish seafood industry, it is critical that we collaborate to collect the best quality data for this valuable resource.

“BIM and the Marine Institute work closely together and we saw a real opportunity to reach out to fishers and processors to progress this initiative. Dr Edward Farrell of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has also played a central role in coordinating the installation and set-up of the scanners.”

Dr Andrew Campbell, pelagic fisheries team lead at the Marine Institute highlighted the importance of robust scientific data.

“In addition to annual scientific surveys and the triennial mackerel egg survey, tag-return data from this type of study also yields invaluable stock structure and age composition insights,” Dr Campbell said. “This data feeds into assessments to allow meaningful catch limits to be set for sustainable management.”

Two tagging units installed in Killybegs at the end of last year are already capturing important data. “In total, 66 tagged fish have been detected to date and we are hopeful that more valuable tag return data will be generated from the Irish mackerel fishery as more scanning units are installed in cooperation with the pelagic industry,” Dr Campbell added.

Up to 2011, mackerel were tagged by inserting small metal tags into the abdomen of the fish before release, which were then picked up by metal detectors at processing plants when the tagged fish were caught. This labor-intensive, manual process meant workers had to sift through the mackerel to pick out the tagged fish each time they heard the metal detector ping on processing lines.

"The international tagging programme has actually been in operation for over 55 years,” said Dr Edward Farrell, KFO’s chief scientific and sustainability officer. “Over 40,000 fish have been tagged annually, which is done simply by jigging for mackerel on surveys in the North Sea and off the west coast of Ireland and west of Scotland.

“In 2011, radio frequency Iidentification (RFID) replaced these metal tags and now when the tagged fish pass through the scanners in processing plants, valuable data is automatically collected without any need to touch the fish.”

BIM is hosting a pelagic information session on 29 September at the KFO offices in Killybegs where this project and other topics will be shared. To register for this in-person and online event, visit the Eventbrite page HERE.

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The Commissioners of Irish Lights (Irish Lights) and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, have collaborated to launch an online training course aimed at Local Lighthouse Authorities.

The course, delivered through BIM’s Learning Management System, consists of six modules and aims to enhance the safe and efficient operation of local aids to navigation services.

It covers topics such as the legal basis for providing marine aids to navigation, understanding the different types of aids to navigation, maintenance schedules and policies and procedures to cover outage reporting and availability requirements to international standards.

The training course is designed to empower and equip Local Lighthouse Authorities with the necessary knowledge to effectively manage local aids to navigation, ensuring the well-being of mariners and the protection of coastal environments.

Local Lighthouse Authorities are responsible for over 3,500 local aids to navigation around Ireland and Northern Ireland, which play a crucial role in ensuring maritime safety by assisting vessels in the identification of safe navigable waters and highlighting the locations of marine hazards for all marine users.

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Seaweed farming is in its infancy in Ireland, however, a new strategy, BIM Irish Macro-Algal Cultivation Strategy to 2030, published by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) this week sets out a roadmap for the development of a sustainable and profitable Irish seaweed aquaculture sector.

Seaweed is increasingly being viewed as an important sustainable raw material, containing many active substances for use in different industries including, food production, pharma and agriculture. The commercial cultivation of seaweed has increased significantly in the last two decades. Annual global seaweed output is now in excess of 35 million wet tonnes, 97% of which is cultivated biomass. Most of the farmed seaweed is from Asia (China, Indonesia, Republic of Korea & Philippines).

Red seaweed, Dulce, in the hatchery at Pure Ocean Algae, Allihies, West CorkRed seaweed, Dulce, in the hatchery at Pure Ocean Algae, Allihies, West Cork

In referring to the ambitions of the new strategy, Caroline Bocquel, CEO BIM, said: “To ensure a sustainable and economically profitable aquaculture industry in Ireland, the volume of farmed seaweed must increase. This new strategy sets out a roadmap for the seaweed sector to realise its potential. Ireland’s long coastline and clean, cold waters present the ideal conditions to cultivate seaweed, and to sustainably develop this crop that is highly resource efficient, requiring minimal resource input.”

There are currently 25 licenced seaweed farms in Ireland, located along the North West, West and South West coastline Farmed seaweeds are grown on ropes and nets, and are exceptionally fast growing plants.

Michael O’Neill, seaweed farmer, in Allihies, West Cork welcomed the new strategy and spoke of the need to unlock the potential of the seaweed sector in Ireland to meet the growing demand for sustainably produced food.

Pure Ocean Algae, Hatchery, located in rural coastal location of Allihies, West CorkPure Ocean Algae, Hatchery, located in rural coastal location of Allihies, West Cork

“The seaweed industry has the highest potential for growth in the Irish aquaculture sector. Ireland has always been a supplier of high-quality seaweeds for various uses, but there have been limitations, to date, on the scalability of the industry.

The advances in cultivation technology and processing, leaves Ireland extremely well positioned to become a major player in the international seaweed industry, with the demand for seaweed biomass and seaweed-based products outstripping supply for the foreseeable future.

Pure Ocean Algae welcomes the new strategy and looks forward to playing its part in the implementation of the findings of this review.”

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