Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Seaweed

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Seaweed"]Seaweed[/caption]

For hundreds of years, the seaweed growing on the shorelines of these islands have provided a source for various materials.

Economically, the kelp became a major contributor towards the economy of the Scottish islands in the 19th century. Napoleon's navy was blockading the United Kingdom 200 years ago, and there was no way that the source material for gunpowder, dried bird droppings, scraped from rocks off the coast of South America (guano), could reach the UK. So, kelp was required and used in huge quantities. Dried and processed in kilns, it reduced to potassium nitrate (potash), which is a base material for gunpowder.

When the Napoleonic wars were over, the shipping lanes opened up and guano quickly supplanted kelp as a source for potash. It was overall a lot cheaper than the labour intensive harvested kelp. The latter was therefore no longer needed, and the price plummeted. It meant severe economic hardship for many islanders, and when the potato famine occurred in the 1840s, it prompted a mass exodus to foreign parts. Kelp continued to be used as a fertiliser on the lazybeds, used by many islanders for growing their crops. In fact to this day, seaweed is being used for that purpose.

A few years ago, a factory opened within the precinct of the Arnish Fabrication Yard, which processes seaweed for various uses, varying from agriculture to the food industry.

Local news website Hebrides Today has announced that seaweed will now also be processed at the Creed Park recycling plant on the Lochs Road (the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road), 2 miles south of Stornoway. The endproduct will be natural gas (methane), which will power vehicles.

From explosives to fuel - seaweed is making a come-back.

11 comments:

  1. You forget to mention that seaweed has been used in the food chain for many years.I learnt to cook from the age of six by grandmother and instead of using meat based geletine she always used "powdered agar-agar"; Ice cream i.e uses seaweed the list of foodstuffs using seaweed,is far too long for me to write on your blog and I won't even talk about the cosmetic industry.

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  2. Taddoe, I am fully aware of the wide range of uses for seaweed products, but did not want to drown readers in the list of those (either). The point of the post was slightly different, so I limited myself.

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  3. Dried out it's a good alternative to bubble wrap

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  4. Especially if you enjoy popping the 'bubbles'...

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  5. Calum, it probably works better as bubblewrap if it isn't dried out, but you might get some funny looks in the Post Office when you take your parcel in.

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  6. if only they'd produce a colourless odourless liquid extract which contained all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals contained in the seaweed, I'd be all over them like a rash, as would most of the worldwide cosmetics industry that they mention on their home page ...

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  7. I would have thought that project was just up your lane, Soaplady! After all, you are chemist, entrepreneur and have tons of the stuff right by your door.
    Supercritical CO2 is a very good solvent....

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  8. Funny you should say that Barney ... cos I am champing at the bit for a new project just recently ... But all capital presently tied up in existing business ... and not sure I have enough of the pure chemistry to start extracting and processing ... in a 'heavy plant' sort of way ...
    I'm having to content myself by producing my own rosehip seed oil, with a side order of rosehip syrup ... Only problem is that I feel guilty picking the birds winter food ... :- )

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  9. You supply the fatballs, they give up their hips in a good cause!

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  10. Another natural resource that is all too overlooked is jellyfish. How the substances that they have in their bells can bind so much water is hard to believe - it must be far more efficient that hyaluronic acid, which is what women plump out their lips and cheeks with, if I undertand the modern woman and her ways. Shove a few jellies through the kitchen whats-its-name, homogeniser maybe, give the sludge a whirl to sediment the grotty stuff, decant the supernatant and Bob's your uncle. An' I hope every reader is suitably impressed by all those long words.

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