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‘Money in seaweed’

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

‘Money in seaweed’

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It’s annual and it’s tidal.
But that does not stop its arrival from being a thing of misery for beach-goers in Barbados.
It’s the Sargassum seaweed and its home is far in the Northern Atlantic Ocean in the Sargasso Sea.
That sea is defined by ocean currents which carry its contents throughout the Caribbean and usually deposits it on our East Coast beaches.
And as the island continues to grapple with this year’s influx, at least one entrepreneur has found a use for it and has challenged Government to follow suit.
This week, HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT takes a further look at the Sargassum seaweed.
There are tonnes of potential fertiliser sitting on beaches around the island, says one man.
And he feels Government should be cashing in on it and even exporting it to earn foreign exchange.
The idea comes from the man who, himself, has found a niche market for the sand-choking, summer-tidal Sargassum seaweed.
Cecil Atwell, of Paradise Village, St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, has pioneered a project in which he turns the leafy-brown, sometimes smelly weed into ground-up local garden mulch which, the packaging boasts, has nitrogen, potassium and chloride. It can be found in some hardware stores and on some supermarket shelves under the brand name Ocean Surf Organic Local Garden Mulch.
His “processing plant” has no fancy equipment; he uses galvanised sheets and the sun to “draw” the salt from the seaweed; he dries it and then finely grinds it.
He feels if he can do it, so too can officials at the relevant Government agency.
“I was willing to give them the ‘technology’,” he noted. But Government, he claims, has been lagging on the idea.
“This here should go to Graeme Hall or one of those places and take the salt out of it and use it as a normal fertiliser,” Atwell stressed, adding he felt Government was negligent “in not putting this seaweed into hundreds and hundreds of dollars in fertiliser.
“We buy nearly all of our fertiliser from outside. If that same money that we spend outside and we get it off the beach here, would that not be a saving to the economy?” he questioned.
In addition, Atwell stressed the new enterprise would generate work for, in his estimation, at least a dozen people.
“For instance, if I had to show people how simple it is, it would be easy because they would get the equipment to suit. Enough comes in here that we would be able to export it. Just take it off the beach and it is as simple as ABC.”
For him, the biggest question was why Government had not capitalised on this free source of income.
He said officials should be enlisting the help of scientists at the University of the West Indies to see what other healing properties the seaweed contained.
“Government is to blame one way for not calling the university or getting some and sending it there and letting them to do something with it.
“And since you don’t have to pay nothing to dry it – the sunlight dries it out – how hard it is to send a couple of fellows here to let me show them how to do a small amount and then they could take it and carry up Graeme Hall and they would probably do it better than me,” he said.