Process & Food Technology students put seaweed on the map

“All-natural, local and zero-waste. A circular economy. This is where we are all headed, together,” says lecturer Fabrice Ducept. His students in the Process & Food Technology degree programme conducted research aimed at products made from Dutch seaweed on behalf of a company in The Hague. “This approach effectively closes the circle in multiple ways.”  

Marjanne Cuypers-Henderson is lecturer in the Industrial Design Engineering programme. Her company, BlueBlocks, is constantly searching for new biomaterials from which to create products. Last year, she put seaweed on the map.

Food applications

“Other countries are already successfully using seaweed for various food applications,” Fabrice says. “Our students have been tasked with exploring the situation here in the Netherlands on behalf of BlueBlocks. That means looking at the species we have here, how useful they might be and what you can make with them. Plus, figuring out how to handle waste materials. Three groups of fourth-year students sat down to tackle these issues.”

Real-world solutions

A total of fifteen students took part in an extensive literature review, after which they got down to work in the lab. These students spent twenty weeks looking for the best methods and techniques. Fabrice: “For them, this was naturally a fantastic opportunity to work on real-world solutions for the circular economy. They had the chance to apply everything they learned in the degree programme. On the one hand, there was a bit of competition to see which group could most quickly achieve the most results. But on the other hand, everyone realised that cooperation was the key. Just like in real life, they couldn’t get along without one another.”

Closing the circle

The results do not disappoint, Fabrice says proudly. “One group managed to derive agar from a certain type of Dutch seaweed. Agar is a thickening agent that can be used in things like jams and jellies. The next group discovered how that same agar can serve as the basis for a bioplastic. And after that, you can use the waste to produce fibreboard, which is useful in making furniture. The circle, in other words, is closed.”