The "Solkelp" project is promoted by the company Arm Of The Ocean, based in Lisbon and Sines, and "is in the experimentation phase", explained its founder, Manuel Pereira Coutinho, to Lusa news agency.
"We want to try to enable the production of macroalgae in the open sea" with the purpose of "distributing them not only to pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, but also for human food, animal feed, biofuels and bioplastics," he stressed.
The idea of the business, which is being developed in partnership with Norwegian company Sea Weed Solution (SES), consists of placing "six pairs of buoys with algae" in specific locations in the port area.
"This is a buoy that has a 50 metre cable attached to an anchor, where the algae seeds, still small, are rolled up, leaving nature to do the rest," he specified.
With this project, "we want to understand, by the end of this year, how the algae grew and what their characteristics are" to then "establish a long-term plan for the production and marketing of algae" from the Port of Sines, he stressed.
"Sines was chosen because it is a place of exposed sea, but with some protection from the waves" and also because its waters have "qualities that allow the sustainable growth of algae," justified the businessman.
The project is based on the "decarbonisation of the environment, specifically in search of neutralising the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, with macroalgae being able to convert more CO2" compared to "terrestrial plants", he highlighted.
According to the official, the different locations where the structures will be placed allow the influence of "currents, water quality and exposure to other marine animals" on "algae growth" to be assessed.
For its part, the Administração dos Portos de Sines e do Algarve (APS) stressed, in a statement, its support for "research and development projects", taking into account "the current relevance given to marine plants for their efficiency in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
These are projects that contribute "to the emergence of innovative and environmentally sustainable solutions, without jeopardising the operability of the port," he said.
Questioned by Lusa about the amount of investment, Manuel Pereira Coutinho did not want to give details, as the project is "in the testing phase," revealing only the expectation of "entering into production" within "one to two years”.
He said he was betting on the "organic and sustainable" growth of the project, but admitted he wanted to become "one of the biggest players in the European offshore macroalgae production market" within five years.
"We will start with 20 hectares and then we will grow successively until we reach our goal of 60 hectares, but all of this will depend on the tests we are carrying out and the support of the Port of Sines," he concluded.
The project also has as partners the Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR) and the company In2Sea, specialised in the marine industry.