The sargassum seaweed that invade the island’s beaches might be proving a costly nuisance for the tourism and fisheries sectors, but is seen as a potential goldmine for one local entrepreneur.
Imran Richards, the director of the Sea Weed Plus project, has teamed up with the Ministry of Agriculture, Barbados Agriculture Development Marketing Cooperation and the Barbados Agriculture Management Company to turn the smelly weed into fertilizer.
“What we have seen based on research is that sargassum has various micronutrient properties which can be used to help with producing fertilizer to increase the prudency of your crops,” Richards told Barbados TODAY.
“What we are doing is harvesting as much as this seaweed as possible so we address what seems to be a national problem. We are now turning the seaweed into an opportunity that can produce products to help with unemployment, especially with youth,” he added.
When Barbados TODAY visited Consett Bay, St John today, Richards and a team of workers were busy clearing the beach, which was blanketed with the brown algae.
“What we have to realize is that the seaweed seems to be reaching crisis levels as about 50,000 tonnes of this particular biomass have reached our shores,” he stressed.
It was earlier this month that newly-installed Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey reported that not only was the island experiencing one of its largest inflows of the brown micro-algae, but as a result local marine species, including flying fish, which forms part of this island’s national dish, were migrating to other waters.
He said Government was treating the situation as a national emergency and would undertake an urgent clean up campaign in the affected coastal areas.
He also said at the time the collected seaweed would go into agricultural production as well as energy research at the University of the West Indies.
However, the minister acknowledged that “what we don’t have is the plant to deal with the magnitude of seaweed that we have, but it is in our interest to scale up [efforts] in the next few years”.
Since 2015 the seaweed has been a major headache for the Barbados tourism sector, causing foul odours from the mounds of rotting vegetable matter on the beaches.
The problem dissipated somewhat in 2016 but returned five months ago, invading the northern, eastern and southern coastlines of the island.