Kent research to support seaweed factory in Zanzibar
Kent-based seaweed technology business Nutri-San is opening a new carrageenan factory on Pemba Island, Zanzibar, which will use techniques developed with Kent researchers to transform seaweed extracts into a plant-based thickening agent for use in the food and pharmaceutical industries. The project will also provide much-needed sustainable employment opportunities for local communities.
The launch of the new factory was marked by a high-profile signing ceremony of the Joint Venture Framework agreement between Zanzibar’s state-owned seaweed company ,ZASCO, and Nutri-San on the 22 November which saw Kent academic, Dr Rob Barker, give a short presentation on carrageenan extraction techniques to an audience of over 100 Zanzibarian Ministers and Government officials and 8 different media outlets.
Nutri-San produces animal feed supplements from a blend of sustainable seaweeds and has been working with Professor Alessia Buscaino and the team at the Kent Biotech Hub – Growing Kent & Medway – Research at Kent for a number of years. An Algae UK BBSRC-funded initiative enabled the team to conduct research on Nutri-San’s seaweed blends. This initial research led to the team exploring alternative uses for by-products from Nutri-San’s production process, including the development of horticultural and agricultural bio-stimulants – something which Growing Kent & Medway have been keen to support. They have since developed a highly productive relationship and are excited that their collaboration is being broadened to include Dr Barker and his team. Together they will continue to work to drive innovation which impacts positively on people, animals and the planet.
The new factory will be one of only a small number of facilities globally that is capable of producing high quality carrageenan from red seaweeds. Nutri-San has been supporting the seaweed harvesting community on Zanzibar for a number of years, and the company’s diversification into carrageenan production will enable many more jobs to be created including key scientific and technical roles.
Alessia Buscaino, Professor of Fungal Biology at the University of Kent, said, ‘The partnership between the University of Kent and Nutri-San has been made possible by the Growing Kent & Medway consortium and it demonstrates how academia and business can work synergistically to great effect, for the immense benefit of both institutions.
‘Our involvement with the commercial operation of Nutri-San in Zanzibar is exciting and we are also excited to announce that Dr Michelle Marin Chau, Nutri-San co-founder, is an honorary member of staff at the University of Kent. Her unique insights and experienced leadership will be an invaluable asset to the University as we work together towards creating positive change.’
San Chau, Nutri-San-CEO, said ‘We have been very fortunate to have developed a relationship with the University of Kent through our research collaborations with Professor Alessia Buscaino and her team, both in the School of Biosciences and at Growing Kent and Medway, which now spans several years. Recently, this relationship has been extended to encompass more members of the Kent team. Going forward together our partnership will have benefits for the community not only in Kent but also globally and we are hugely excited about this.’
Dr Michelle Marin Chau, Nutri-San-Communications Director, added, ‘We set up Nutri-San in 2017 with the goal that our business would have a positive transformational impact on the lives of people – particularly by providing sustainable employment opportunities for some of the most marginalised coastal communities around the world. Through our work with the University of Kent we have a unique opportunity for science and technology, in partnership with private enterprise and government, to impact on people both in East Africa and in the UK. Our multistakeholder work in Zanzibar is just one example of how we are engaging with the United Nation SDGs and transforming lives. I am hugely proud that Growing Kent and Medway has played a part in making this possible and would like to thank Professor Buscaino for her support as she leads our collaboration with the University into what I am sure will be an exciting year ahead.