The presence of sargassum on the coasts of Quintana Roo and its impact on ecosystems and tourism has led the local authorities to believe that these macroalgae is “the enemy to overcome”. However, specialists agree that sargassum can actually become part of the regional economy.
The two species of sargassum that are massively arriving on the beaches of the Mexican Caribbean are: the natans and the fluitans, these are used as raw material in the cosmetic industry, as a generator of methane gas, charcoal, electric power, fertilizer for plants, plastic substitute and even as animal food.
“Sargassum is not so bad, and if it is multiplying so much is due to the contamination of water,” says Dr. Iris Nava Jimenez, coordinator of Biotechnology at the Polytechnic University of Quintana Roo, who adds that it can be used as a fertilizer through a process of washing, drying, crushing and packaging, which also works as a defense against pests.
She says that when studying their properties and uses they found that it can be used as shrimp feed and obtain a liquid extract that has positive effects on vegetable crops.
“We are in the standardization of the dose of a liquid extract from sargassum to observe the positive effects in agricultural use and we are also analyzing the effect on seeds of cucumber (Cucum sativus), in terms of germination time, the presence of enzymes regulators of plant growth in sargassum, stimulate the increase of biomass and rooting, ” Dr. Iris Nava Jimenez said.
The Technological University of Cancun (UTC), a Denmark based company and scientists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) are working on a project for sargassum processing, sponsored by the Danish company.
They are currently in search of a site for the installation of a sublimation plant that transforms sargassum from a solid to a gaseous state, in order to generate methane gas, charcoal or electricity, in a 100% sustainable way, without generation of waste.
“It is a solid waste treatment plant, where electricity, charcoal and biogas can be generated from treated sargassum. We will have a meeting with Dr. Castaño, from the Faculty of Physics of the UNAM, to know the details of the terrain, and we need to collaborate with the state government in order to coordinate the saargassum harvest operation.
“The fact is that the sargassum can not be collected once it reaches the shore and is lying on the sand; it must be taken out from the sea, and then be treated, “said the Secretary of Liaison and President of Environmental Management of the Technological University of Cancun, Juan Carlos González Macías.
The Secretary of Ecology of Quintana Roo, Alfredo Arellano Guillermo said that they have had offers from individuals and civil organizations, academics, scientists or governments such as Japan and China, who have documented the use of sargassum in the cosmetic industry, food for pigs, construction materials and fertilizer among other uses.
“We need investors who use this algae,” says the official, explaining that the amounts of seaweed are enough to invest in different industries. We have been approached by Chinese companies, the government of Japan, cooperatives and other entrepreneurs”. All initiatives for the use of sargassum are welcome and there if thereare business opportunities, we are willing to provide the raw material” Arellano concluded.
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