Phyta is a coastal water seaweed cultivation initiative designed to provide materials to the growing biodegradable plastics industry. Simultaneously, commercial-scale seaweed cultivation could prove a powerful strategy for nutrient removal from the marine environment. By demonstrating the viability of seaweed cultivation in warm water conditions, Phyta will expand the range and improve the productivity of the aquaculture industry, provide new sources for alternative plastics production, and reduce pressures associated with traditional resource extraction.
Small plastic particles, also known as microplastics, are found in many personal hygiene products -- in fact, showering one time can release up to 100,000 plastic particles into the ocean. Because these particles are similar in size to plankton, bits of plastic find their way into our food chain through fish or other organisms. Plastic consumption causes a number of harmful effects to human health, ranging from cancers to birth defects.
Aside from its applications as a strategy for alternative consumer products, seaweed could also prove an extremely effective method to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and remove excess nutrients. For example, seaweed is 5x more effective at sequestering carbon than any other land-based plant and grows 30 to 60 times more quickly. Similarly, the removal of excess nitrogen and phosphorous from coastal waters could form the basis for national nutrient recycling permits - thereby supporting global efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Current forms of animal feed are grain-based and rely on toxic pesticides to be produced at demanded yield rates. As these harmful products accumulate, humans face greater risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and their associated unknown health impacts. In an effort to improve public health, seaweed could reduce environmental stress induced by agriculture while simultaneously improving food security. Additionally, some species of seaweed have recently been shown to reduce overall methane emissions from animals, which could further support global efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. In Phase II, developing technology will allow us to isolate compounds necessary for alternative plastics production and sell the residual high-nutrient seaweed to livestock farmers to increase their product's value and sustainability.