Research progress week 2

This is a research proposal for the subsystem of “From the Sea”. The idea is to subdivide the research question into 3 topics so the research is easy to split among the group members. Together we will do research in how the 3 different technical topics can be combined with social functions towards a socio-technical system.  

Problem statement: The island of Texel is surrounded by salt sea water at all sides. The sea in Texel is currently only used in leisure activities, while it offers lots of possibilities for food, electricity and fuel production. Some small projects are going on in this field on Texel right now, but to achieve a self-sustaining island this will need to be intensified significantly.

Research question:

To what extend can the sea be used as source for the production …

- of food ?

- of fuel ?

- of electricity ?

- How can these be combined with leisure activities, tourism and education?

Research methodology

Besides dividing the research topics among the group members the research in itself is split into 2 parts. The first part consist of information gathering of the technical topics to get a clear overview of whats going on right now and what the possibilities are.

The second part of the research which will be done together, focusses on how these technical aspects can be combined with social aspects such as leisure and tourism, but also education.

The ambition is to have the sea as source for multiple subsystems and be part of closed loops within the subsystems and the whole system on Texel. The solution can consist of multiple smaller projects and loops which each can be used to educate for future sustainable projects elsewhere. Imagine a whole coastline with different projects working together to facilitate life on the island. An educational/leisure tour can me made around the coastline.

* This week our group member Nick announced he will quit this course. This means that our group has to revise the research structure and set up a new division of tasks



Food from the sea


Feeding the world within the carrying capacity of Planet Earth requires an open eye for the

sustainable food production at sea, as seas cover more than 70% of the planet. Seaweeds

provide big opportunities for production at sea: a commodity that can be used as food for human

consumption, livestock feed and a source of green chemicals.

Seaweeds are among the promising products to be produced from marine ecosystems. According to scientific research seaweed can cultivate and be produced in the North sea to be used as a source of proteins and polysaccharides to be used in feed and non-food applications.

From a 'profit' perspective seaweeds are attractive because they can be used in a wide range of

applications, for example:

-Seaweed can be used directly for human consumption. This is the dominant application worldwide, seaweed being a common ingredient in the Asian menu (the most familiar dish is sushi). In Western cuisine, direct consumption of seaweeds is generally less common, some coastal communities being the exemption to this rule .

-They can be used for production of hydrocolloids. This is currently the second largest application of seaweeds. Hydrocolloids (alginate, agar, and carrageenan) are commonly used in the food industry as thickener.

-The chemical and pharmaceutical industries have shown interest in seaweed as a source of chemicals and medicine

-Bioactive molecules in seaweed species can be of interest for utilization for health and functional

food applications.

-Seaweeds are a potential source of bioenergy, with various production processes available. Interest in the use of algae as a source of biofuels has some history but ongoing technological developments render further investigation necessary.


From a 'planet' perspective, seaweed production is a

ttractive because it can:

-Contribute to tackling climate change through the production of biofuels as fewer fossil fuels need to be used.

-Reduce eutrophication of seas through strategic positioning of production facilities because

nutrients are taken up during growth and removed by harvesting the seaweed.

-Help in combatting overfishing and subsequent decline of fish stocks as seaweeds can be used as an alternative source of marine protein in fish feed.

-Reduce dependency on soy import for feeding livestock and thereby combat deforestation in soy

producing countries.

-Reduce fossil fuel use thanks to the production of chemical building blocks.


Regarding all the above, cultivate seeweed is a sustainable resource of sea food, not only for people but also it is a nutricient source for fishes and animals. Also, there is a potential of diverse uses of like fuel, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics and as a filter for water pollution.



Fuel from the sea

Besides purposes in food production, algae can also be used for bio fuel solutions. Current techniques are already developed for small scale production. Algae fuel offers great possibilities because of the energy it takes to produce: almost nothing. The only step that takes energy is the distraction of the lipids from the algae of which the fuel is made.  The unicellular organisms can, according to the sun intensity, multiply every 4hours using photosynthesis. This means that during summer – when the fuel demand is bigger due to tourism - lots of renewable fuel can be available.  Dutch innovations in genetically modified organisms might help boost the production of lipids in algae. However, an important problem is that algae production for food is currently more financially beneficial. Besides that biofuel cannot be used in every motor, so this takes special attention.

A second organic product which besides food can also used for fuel production is seaweed. On Texel there’s a research centre for seaweed. The Seaweed centre states the following on their website: “Seaweeds are an attractive source of biomass from the sea. They do not need precious freshwater, no claims on agricultural soils are made, they grow on available nutrients in the sea (even reducing eutrophication) and they do not need application of pesticides. This makes seaweeds a very suitable source of biomass for energy (polysaccharides), food and feed (proteins) and high added value bio-active products. All this is done while the seaweeds fix the greenhouse gas CO2, and under the production of oxygen. In these processes seaweeds can give a substantial boost to the development of a bio-based economy”.

One could also think of a hybrid fuel: this would accommodate a more gradually shift towards 100% biofuels.

Another interesting development is the making of hydrogen fuel from seawater. The US Navy is currently experimenting with this. Below a link to this interesting development is given, but a lot of disadvantages still have to be overcome. It takes a lot of electricity to pump up the water and split it into usable molecules by the process of electrolysis. Although the technique is promising, it is still no sustainable solution at this moment.

Another approach could be the use of water from the sea for fuel production on land. Crops might  be modified in a way that they can grow with salt water.  Research to the consequenses of salt water on the soil should be conducted.

Elektricity from the sea

As explained, group member Nick quitted the course and therefore this topic still lacks information.  

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