By Carlena Knight
A young regional entrepreneur, who pioneered the business of converting sargassum seaweed to fertiliser, believes that with strategic planning the government of Antigua and Barbuda could reap multiple benefits from the removal of the invasive algae.
The government, in its latest Cabinet notes, confirmed that removal of the weed will begin shortly as a local owner of a harvesting machine is expected to send an estimate to begin the process.
Two additional machines are likely to be dispatched from Guadeloupe in order to assist in the process.
It was also reported that the government of Japan has promised more than $2 million in assistance with machines and other supplies to harvest the seaweed.
This, according to St Lucian Johanan Dujon, the owner of that country’s first indigenous biotech company, Algas Organics, says it’s a step in the right direction.
“That sounds great, but that’s the point of strategic planning because if you are getting $2 million, that’s a start and now would be the time to say ‘okay great, let’s get that $2 million, turn it into five because instead of just taking it and dumping it, let us create employment and process it and sell it which would benefit all Antiguans but this all depends on how far ahead you are looking,” said Dujon.
Dujon launched his company, Algas Organics Limited, in 2015, which uses sargassum for a range of natural fertilisers which stimulate plant growth through vigorous root development. The high-efficiency process allows for maximum extraction of quality bio-actives and micronutrients from every pound of the seaweed.
This product, Algas Total Plant Tonic, is already making waves in several Caribbean countries and will soon be available in Antigua.
The company focuses mainly on manual harvesting following specific techniques and handling for the weed. This is a practice the 26-year-old St Lucian is advising should also be implemented in addition to the machines.
He says just using the machines alone could cause serious environmental damage.
Dujon also discouraged the use of unprocessed sargassum for fertiliser and for dealing with the giant African snails. Not only will the high volumes of salt in the weed be harmful to plants but there is no scientific proof that the weed is helpful with snails, Dujon mentioned.
He says, however, the processed material is the best product to use on crops and even in back yard gardens.
The graduate of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College mentioned his willingness to working with the Antigua and Barbuda government to solve the issue of the unsightly sargassum weed.