Sea6 Energy has created a sustainable ecosystem by integrating the upstream and downstream activities involved in cultivation of seaweed and converting the raw material into innovative products that have use across industries. They have developed the world’s first system for large-scale mechanized ocean farming along with cutting edge technology and expertise. They are able to increase labour productivity, cultivate seaweeds in a sustainable way, create novel products and guarantee the quality of the whole value chain from raw materials to end products.
AgroPages recently interviewed Sri Sailaja Nori and Sowmya Balendiran from Sea6 Energy. They talked about the advantages of their ocean farming system, red seaweeds and their patented biostimulant, as well as strategies for taking their biostimulant products across the globe and their expectations from the potential partners.
Sea6 Energy has the world's unique ocean farming system (Seacombine®) for seaweed production. Could you please tell us the advantages (or advanced technologies) of this system and how it benefits your seaweed-based biostimulants?
Most of the seaweed-based biostimulants are based on temperate brown seaweeds. They are harvested from the ocean and then sun-dried to increase their usability. There is very little control over the age and quality of these seaweeds as they are wild harvested. In addition, there are always vagaries about the availability of the brown seaweed due to the seasonality and government restrictions to harvest the seaweed. All these factors always lead to inconsistency in the quality of the end product.
Our in-house engineering team developed, Seacombine®, the world’s first-ever sea tractor to grow sea plants throughout the year, even in deep-sea conditions. Seacombine® is a patented structure, and it has allowed us to integrate the backward supply chain right from cultivation to final packaging process. This harvesting technology has multiple benefits, including stringent control over the raw-material quality, complete traceability, and rapid scalability in a sustainable manner.
The Photo of the SeaCombine®, in the process of farming red seaplants in deep sea conditions, off the coast of Bali, Indonesia
Why did you choose red seaweed as the raw material?
Red seaweeds are the only source of sulphated galactans, which are chemically distinct from any other polysaccharides. They have unique bioactive properties. The extraction processes deployed can convert the sulphated galactans into versatile applications, ranging from renewable bioplastics and agricultural biostimulants to immune enhancers and human food ingredients.
The Photo of the batch tagged freshly harvested Red Sea Plant which we use in producing our products
Red seaweeds, in particular Kappaphycus and Eucheuma species, have a high yield potential (> 100 dry tonnes/hectare/annum) and are rich in potassium. They also have a history of proven large-scale cultivation (2 million metric tonnes per annum). In addition, they are also safe and have been used as food and in the manufacture of food ingredients over the last five decades. The vegetative nature of the seaweed makes it amenable to mechanical cultivation. Thus, there is no limitation on the raw material availability or scalability for novel applications. The growth-harvest cycle of the red seaweeds is 45 days and multiple harvests are possible in a given year. This, coupled with our SeaCombine® cultivation platforms, ensures a steady supply of sustainable and traceable raw material
AgroGain® is a patented biostimulant developed by Sea6 Energy. What makes the product unique?
Firstly, the active ingredient in the product is novel and different from the other seaweed-based products in the market. The AI (Sulphated galactooligosaccharides and potassium) present in the product works by stimulating upregulation of various genes responsible for vital plant functions such as cell division, photosynthesis and metabolism.
Our product stands out as it is entirely natural and highly potent, offering high performance at very low dosages than the other seaweed-based products in the market.
Finally, our product is the only patented seaweed biostimulant in the market. The nature of the patent makes it unique. We have a granted product patent for our Biostimulant product in the major agricultural markets globally. Unlike a process patent, Sea6’s product patent protects other players from entering the market with the similar formulation. The patent covers the specific signature of the derived molecules from the juice and pulp of any red seaweed in the end product. This makes the patent strong and enforceable, adding a competitive edge to the product.
How do you guarantee product quality?
Sea6 Energy has identified and characterised the active ingredients responsible for the biostimulant activity. In addition, we have complete control over the raw material age and quality with our SeaCombine® powered cultivation technology.
We have incorporated the “Quality by Design” approach in our manufacturing processes to produce the products of highest quality and consistency. Every batch of the product manufactured is subjected to analytical assays and plant bioassays. We use High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and biochemical techniques to ensure all the batches adhere to specific molecular signatures.
The Photo of our facility in Indonesia. Sea6 has two production facilities currently – In India and in Indonesia
Sea6 Energy collaborates with large companies with a global footprint to distribute the biostimulant in the international markets. What is their strategy to promote the biostimulant in these markets?
Our global partners are large companies with expertise in their niche industry. They have experience in the local geographies. These large companies augment their strengths with Sea6 Energy’s strengths. Like us, most of these companies have a strong R&D and product focus. Hence, they understand the strength of our product and can communicate the value proposition of the product to various stakeholders in the value chain.
Another strength these companies bring to the table is understanding the local markets in terms of the crops to be focused upon, end-user buying behaviour, channel strategy, and more. This helps in proper product positioning. Finally, these companies have robust brand equity, and end-users trust these brands, which adds credibility to the product.
The partners we work with, have a strong focus on the Plant Health portfolio, and our product fits their requirements, and hence, we can work synergistically with their existing portfolio.
Sea6 Energy plans to expand its presence in LATAM and Chinese markets. What are your expectations while choosing a partner to collaborate with?
Here is our expectation checklist -
1. R&D Expertise – We believe this is a crucial aspect of choosing a partner because a good R&D team can analyse the uniqueness and benefits of the product.
2. Nationwide presence –This allows us to work with a single partner in the entire country
3. Distribution strength – We look at the distribution strength regarding Plant Health products, Crop focus, and others as this would ensure the product reaches large audience.
4. Global presence – We believe in working closely and deeply with few partners. Thus, we prefer partners with a global presence so as to launch our products in other countries.
5. Product Portfolio –This helps assess the proper fitment and harness synergies for both Sea6 and the partner.
6. Strategic crop presence – We look for the presence of our partner’s existing business in crop markets, that aligns with our product strengths
What are the things that Sea6 is currently working on?
Our vision is to harness the potential of red seaweeds (seaplants) to create a sustainable bio-economy. While we have commercialised the applications from sea plants (biostimulant and plant health products) with raw material available from traditional cultivation methods, we have also demonstrated processes that can convert sea plants to food, feed, plastics, and fuels.
Biodegradable plastics and biofuels have large volume applications and manufacturing them require millions of tonnes of raw material and our proprietary SeaCombine® technology would enable this.
Over the next three to five years, Sea6 Energy will expand its ocean farming operations and demonstrate biodegradable plastics production at a pre-commercial scale. We will also launch products focused on sustainable human food ingredients and animal health.
This interview was originally published in the magazine 2021 Biologicals Special.
Click the picture below to download the magazine and find more reports on biopesticides, biostimulants and biofertilizers.