A researcher whose report showed Australia had over 12,000 native seaweed and algae species and contained bioactive health ingredients such as omega-3 and collagen has been announced as the 2022 AgriFutures Australian Researcher of the Year.
The algae and seaweed opportunity: An Australian prospect by Victorian-based researcher Adrian Spencer outlined new business ventures which may result in massive growth in the country's vitamin and supplement market.
"We have an incredible natural native supply of algae, and the Australian environment is ideal for algae growth," Mr Spencer said.
"Algae was seen as a biofuel alternative for many years, but this research we're doing shows there's a great pivot available here and the past research work and infrastructure that was invested into biofuel possibilities can absolutely be used in the health and nutraceutical field."
Mr Spencer's research showed that omega-3 and collagen have great demand globally but minimal local production, offering an appealing potential of opening new markets within Australia.
"While there are many forums internationally, this is the most comprehensive and focused of its type in terms of industry research collaboration," he said.
"The Australian industry is held back currently by a knowledge gap around the latest research and industry advancements, in terms of growing, harvesting, refining and biomanufacturing."
Mr Spencer will receive two tickets to attend the evokeAG event in Adelaide in 2023 and a capacity-building grant.
He intends to use his grant to attend the European Algae Industry Summit, which he said will be an opportunity to learn further and talk about his research.
"We are reliant on what is already happening around the world, particularly in Europe so by attending this summit, I will be able to connect and learn from the latest breakthroughs and advancements directly from the researchers/proprietors of this information," he said.
"This will fill gaps in my knowledge that is not accessible locally - and I'm incredibly excited to bring that knowledge back and share it with local emerging industry,"
The report estimates that the Australian seaweed industry has a gross value of $3 million and prospects to grow.