Southern Kurzeme, Latvia
The Kurzeme coastal region of Latvia is an area rich with red algae (Furcellaria lumbricalis), which provides a key substrate for herring spawning. This algae is also a valuable raw material for the production of agar, gelatinous substance which can be used as a laxative, a vegetarian gelatin substitute, a food thickener, as a clarifying agent in brewing, as well as for sizing paper and fabrics. Agar has been used by confectionary industries in eastern Europe and Russia for the past 43 years.
In the Kurzeme region, Furcellaria lumbricalis was used in agar production before the 1980s, when there were large stocks of the algae which allowed for high agar production. Following some oil tanker accidents around 1980, the algae stocks were decimated and production of agar was stoped. SUBMARINER seeks to investigate the potential for restoring the agar production industry in the area and to develop competitive ideas for doing so.
A regional development plan will be prepared for the coastline in Southern Kurzeme, showing the potential for collecting and using algae for agar production. It will be developed according to the regional strategy development scheme of the Latvian Ministry of Environment. Specific activities will include:
- An overview of the agar production methods (both the methods used currently in Estonia and in Japan, as well as methods used in the past.
- Analysis of the potential for agar production in household conditions through an experimental test to be undertaken in autumn 2011.
- Assessment of Furcellaria stock quantities in the Latvian Baltic Sea coast, including an analysis of existing studies of Furcellaria stocks and estimates made during the agar production experimental test.
- A cost analysis of algae harvesting and agar production.
Agar production. Images courtesy of Est Agar