by Dr Roy Bartle
The first of two-yearly meetings of the SW-GROW Project Partners, to promote the seaweed industry in the Northern Periphery and Arctic Region, was held at iNOVA in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, on 25-26 February 2020. Owing to the very high winds at the time, a number of the delegates had very bumpy arrivals into the Faroes, exacerbated somewhat by the location of Vagar Airport in a steep-sided valley that has the unfortunate effect of acting as a wind tunnel!
Our meetings were hosted by our Project Partner, Dr Agnes Mols Mortensen, Science Director of TARI Faroe Seaweed, which produces seeded ropes and cultivated seaweed. Arriving prior to the main meetings, I was able to accompany Agnes to visit TARI’s proposed new hatchery site at the village of Famjin on Suðuroy, the southernmost island of the Faroes archipelago. Keen to attract commercial activity to the area to combat rural depopulation the village municipality have made available to TARI, subject to regional licencing, a former salmon processing building at fair rates. Whilst the building fabric requires some work, it is ideally situated on the seashore and at the foot of a mountain stream previously used for hydroelectric generation. In the future, SW-GROW hope to collaborate with TARI Seaweed and the Famjin municipality to develop a pilot seaweed hatchery with a community renewable energy hydroelectric system. Lews Castle College UHI academics are currently involved in this design.
On the evening of Tuesday 25 February, TARI provided a gastronomic expedition through Faroese seaweed and other local foods: pilot-whale blubber, fermented whale and lamb’s meat, and dried cod, featured on the menu along with more common items! Not only a delightful evening, the experience emphasised the many ways in which seaweed can be incorporated into cooking – as a vegetable, or savoury snack, or seasoning salt, or a beer flavouring. We each went home with recipe ideas that we would like to try in our own kitchens!
The following day, TARI took us to their cultivation sites in a fjord some 30 min from Torshavn, where we set out on a boat to be shown the deployed seeded ropes. Agnes, who is researching the potential seaweed growth benefits of combined seaweed and fish farming, took water samples at different locations in the fjord for subsequent lab analysis. SW-GROW partners were very impressed with the way that Agnes uses her research background to apply rigorous scientific method to the development of seaweed products.
With a spare afternoon, Lisbeth (Hansen), who is Professor and Head of the Microbiology and Hygiene Research Group, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and faculty member at the DTU’s ARTEK campus in Sisimiut, Greenland – and also half Faroese – took us on a tour on a back road around a headland on the island of Eysturoy. The road, which was untreated, ascended into the mountains and we soon found ourselves driving in tyre tracks through snow. Further ahead were a carful of girls, on holiday from Denmark, who had found the limits of their ice driving skills and were stationary on the single-track road, wheels spinning on an incline. Several of our SW-GROW partners walked up to investigate and, with yours truly driving, and Jon (An Lanntair) and the girls pushing, we were able to extricate them from their snowy sojourn with a good tale to tell back home. We then continued, marvelling at the winter scenery, to the remarkable village of Gjogv, where fishermen used a pulley to hoist their boats up and down the c. 50 m, 30-degree slipway between the village and the rocky sea inlet below. A fitting location to conclude an insightful few days with TARI Seaweed in the rugged Faroe Islands.