Seaweed the movie – as post-COP interest grows

The environmental benefits of seaweed have been brought to the fore by COP26, leading to a surge of inquiries to Arnish-based Hebridean Seaweed, the UK’s leading processors of the resource.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 10:17 am
Martin MacLeod of Hebridean Seaweed with Jon Alpert and Naomi Mizoguchi

Last week, the role of seaweed in combating climate change also brought one of America’s foremost documentary film-makers to Lewis for a brief working visit, prompted by publicity around seaweed’s contribution to reducing methane emissions.

As previously reported by the Gazette, Hebridean Seaweed is involved In research into the use of seaweed in animal feed which can make a dramatic impact on methane output. This caught the interest of New York film-maker, Jon Alpert, who is making a documentary series on climate change for Netflix.

In the UK for COP26, he was so intrigued by seaweed’s potential that he and his assistant promptly travelled to Stornoway to film seaweed gathering and talk about the methane reduction dimension with Martin MacLeod, managing director of Hebridean Seaweed.

Mr Alpert has won 16 Emmy Awards and been nominated for two Academy Awards. His particular forte is “cinema verité” and his work has included ‘Cuba and the Cameraman’, following three Cuban families through four decades since the revolution. A 36-year study, ‘Life of Crime’, about drug addiction in New Jersey has just been launched on HBO and unfortunately Mr Alpert could only stay one day on Lewis as he was returning to New York for the premiere.

His climate change series links initiatives being taken to it with the effects it is already having on the lives of ordinary people around the world. An ice hockey enthusiast, he has been staging games all over the world – and then working with local participants to tell how climate change is impacting their own communities.

He said: “We’ve been in Kenya, Israel, Abu Dhabi, Antártica, India, Mónaco, Singapore, New York City, Russia and Finland – now Lewis. Unfortunately, there is no ice hockey here, though we did stage a game in Dumfries. But I was really keen to know more about seaweed and to congratulate Martin on the work he is involved in on animal feed”.

Martin MacLeod said: “Every animal feed company in the world is now trying to nail this one and we are very excited about the potential. A lot of work has been done on species not native to Scotland and we are now awaiting results of research into our own seaweed’s properties.

“We are working on the active ingredient in our seaweed to see whether we can create a viable product that will make a real difference”. He said there had been “a huge number of inquiries off the back of COP26”, mainly involving methane reduction, in human as well as animal diet.

On top of all that, there was a visit at short-notice from Israeli architects about the use of seaweed in construction.

Mr MacLeod said: “We are working our way through all the inquiries and there are some really interesting ones. Seaweed is now being seen as part of the solution not just for climate change but sustainability in general”.