How Indonesian seaweed can fit into decarbonisation

Seaweed cultivation

By bringing together Indonesian seaweed and Australian technological innovations, a shared vision of decarbonisation can be progressed.


That vision was raised at a recent business conference, and one that is also seen in the research collaboration on seaweed supply chains as part of the PAIR research program.

The agriculture sector’s contribution towards carbon emissions is well-documented. According to the Climate Council, agriculture in Australia contributes about 13 percent of the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and almost half is in the form of methane from cattle and other livestock.

Work is well underway on reducing livestock methane emissions. Scientists from James Cook University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia have conducted research on using seaweed in cattle feedstock.

The findings indicate that adding Indonesian red seaweed, Asparagopsis Taxiformis, to cattle feed can significantly reduce methane emissions.

The potential for Indonesian seaweed was raised at this year’s IndOz conference in Brisbane, where Austrade’s senior trade and investment commissioner for Indonesia Sally Deane, highlighted the benefits of this commodity for Indonesia and Australia.

“Indonesia is one of the world’s leading producers of seaweed, whereas Australia in recent times has developed some great innovations in our use of seaweed to reduce methane gas emissions from cattle,” Ms Deane told the gathering.

Sun dried seaweeed
Red algae or Rhodophyta is sun dried on the side of the road in Kampung Baru, Pitusunggu village. Image by Zulung for the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

In Indonesia, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries is promoting the economic development of seaweed and the development of seaweed clusters in regions such as South Sulawesi with a view to improving production and creating downstream value.

The Australia-Indonesia Centre has been taking an in-depth look at seaweed, commissioning several research projects that examine how to build a sustainable industry.

The work of the team under PAIR includes looking at the supply chain, and how to measure the quality and therefore value of the raw commodity.

Executives from the Centre had a first-hand look at seaweed processing operations earlier this year with a visit to Bantimurung Seaweed in South Sulawesi. This carrageenan production business has more than 30 years export experience to countries such as England, China, Argentina, South Korea and the Philippines.

According to executive director Eugene Sebastian the reliance on exporting a raw product meant there were opportunities to change this to add value through innovation.

“In seaweed, there is a potential to create trade opportunities under the trade agreement of IA-CEPA. We believe there is the opportunity to attract investments to improve the seaweed value chain. In areas like infrastructure, processing and even innovation,” Dr Eugene elaborated.

The seaweed producer’s head of external relations, Shinta Pratiwi Rahayu, says that a collective effort would be welcomed.

seaweed processing
Seaweed processing in PT Bantimurung Indah Seaweed, Maros Regency, South Sulawesi. Image by Evelynd for the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

According to Ms Rahayu this could be achieved “… by opening more investment opportunities, including facility renovation, product innovation, and food grade certification”.

Deputy for Food and Agribusiness at the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs Dr Musdhalifah Machmud, said that a key to developing any commodity was to ensure that it met with consumer or market demand. Therefore, cooperation to increase the marketing of seaweed commodity products needs to be developed, especially with neighbouring countries such as Australia.

Dr Machmud is a member of the PAIR research advisory panel which advises on the impact and implementation of the research.

“It is hoped that the research results will improve development of environmentally friendly seaweed commodities and ecotourism so that it can encourage the acceleration of the development of the green economy,” said Dr Machmud.

Clean energy

Indonesia’s decarbonisation scenarios are built on assumptions that the country maintains steady economic growth, provides electricity to almost all households, and reduces poverty. A case study shows that decarbonisation is compatible with the country’s socioeconomic development objectives.

The shift to clean energy was also picked-up by Sally Deane at the IndOz conference.

“Indonesia’s electricity supply business plan estimates that the demand for electricity is going to increase 4.9 percent per annum between 2021 and 2030,” she said.

Ms Deane also addressed Indonesia and Australia’s mutual challenges in being heavily reliant upon coal for energy and revenue while also seeking to decarbonise.

A case study on decarbonising the Indonesian electricity sector outlines the urgency to adapt climate change into possible actions, attract finance for significant infrastructure and technology investment, facilitate technology transfer, and adopt the right energy-pricing policy for renewable sources.

“But the good news is that both Indonesia and Australia have announced and indicated that they are deeply committed to addressing climate change and the transition to clean energy,” said Ms Deane.

Image at top by Imran for the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

Picture of Evelynd

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The Australia-Indonesia Centre