Back in December, over 190 countries (including the UK) agreed to new targets to protect nature at the United Nations’ Biodiversity Conference. Named the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the agreement includes a pledge to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030 (30/30), especially in areas of particular importance to biodiversity. Currently, only 17% of land and 10% of oceans are considered protected. More recent developments have seen UK government consultations on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HMPAs) within Scotland, an area with major offshore wind developments. In order to achieve GBF targets, we need to develop and expand our abilities to effectively monitor marine biodiversity.

Here at Seaweed Generation, we’re developing technology to sustainably grow seaweed and make seaweed sinking for large scale carbon dioxide removal commercially viable. To do this, we’re working extensively on developing knowledge and technology to grow, harvest and monitor the impacts of large scale seaweed applications.

The importance of monitoring

We believe that seaweed must play a huge part in a sustainable future for our planet, but we need to deeply understand the impacts of every project that we undertake to make this happen. Monitoring the impacts of human influences on the ocean is essential, that’s why data is vital to everything we do.

With new Innovate UK funding, we’re building on our AlgaRay system to develop new monitoring technologies, the Seaweed Generation Automated Robotic Ocean Biodiversity Observation Glider (lovingly referred to as AROBOG).

The aim of AROBOG is to develop biodiversity monitoring sensors and data collection packages, including different camera set-ups (including hyperspectral), acoustic recorders and physical parameter sensors. Once complete, these new technologies can be added onto our solar powered, remotely operated automated underwater vehicles and help us gain a deeper understanding of the marine environments we’re working in. We’re also working on an in-situ charging and docking system to allow AROBOG and our robots to remain working remotely off-shore (something that’s never been done before!), collecting ever-important, ongoing biodiversity data over a large area and transmitting it back via satellites.

We want to improve how we assess the impacts of human activities on natural ecosystem function, biodiversity and resilience. As interest in off-shore seaweed farms and wind farms grows, there is an ever-present need to demonstrate the long term environmental impacts that these activities have at sea, particularly on biodiversity. In fact, Natural England (2021) and DEFRA (2021) have stipulated that off-shore wind farms will need to support biodiversity going forward. Which is where AROBOG comes in, making biodiversity monitoring easier, more effective, low impact and lower cost to operate.

The project also focuses on running the data collected by the observation array through machine learning software and open source datasets to make species identification and quantification easier and faster.

We’re working harder than ever to make long term marine biodiversity monitoring more accessible and cost effective in the challenging remote coastal and off-shore environments and pushing forward to reach 30/30 targets to better understand and protect our oceans.

As always, we’re stronger together, so we’re also partnering with South West Mull and Iona Development Trust, working on their community owned seaweed farm (the largest community owned farm in the UK) to deliver ARABOG.

Finally, we’d like to extend our thanks to Innovate UK for supporting us in our journey.

We’ll keep you up to date!