Exeter University postgraduates help to establish a sustainable Cornish seaweed industry

Students studying the One Planet MBA programme are working with the University’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) to explore how a Cornish business can become a ‘firm of the future’ – a business inspired by nature.

The students are looking at the development of a Cornish seaweed industry with Falassa, a local business that encourages the use of seaweed for nutrition and therapy. There are a few companies that are working with seaweed in Cornwall but the ESI and Business School is looking to explore ways in which things can develop and diversify.

Alex Huke, Research and Knowledge Exchange Manager for the ESI, explained: “Seaweed has long been used elsewhere in the world and many parts of Britain - for food, fuel, fertiliser and cosmetics. Reinvigorating interest in utilising seaweed in Cornwall is exciting, especially if we can look at it developing a holistically, sustainably and economically viable industry. In terms of food security, which is a growing research priority, seaweed could play an increasingly important role.”

The project is part of the One Planet MBA module, Biomimicry and Business: Innovations inspired by Nature, which uses frameworks inspired by life principles to design smarter business products, processes and systems.

Dr Sally Jeanrenaud, Module Coordinator, explained: “The key message of this module is that ‘life creates conditions conducive to life’.  The collaboration between the One Planet MBA, the ESI, and Falassa shows how win-win-win outcomes can be created by the Business School, scientific research and local companies working together. We are delighted by the collaboration.”

The project is focused around the growth of a sustainable and resilient Cornish seaweed industry. The students are using a variety of ecological design principals to develop an appropriate business model, applying some of the concepts and frameworks they have studied to help Falassa consider creative ways to build a thriving and harmonious business.

The students, who study at the Streatham Campus, visited Cornwall to meet Rory and find out more about the uses of seaweed and the work of the ESI.

Rory Macphee, Director of Falassa, said: “It was a totally charming experience to be on a beach in Cornwall explaining the intricacies of sea vegetable harvesting and processing to the students. This is how education should be run and I am very optimistic that the business growth ideas being developed by the students will push Falassa into a new and exciting arena of operations.”

MBA Student Stefan Wathan added: “The learning environment at the ESI was excellent. We had access to experts, facilities and an outdoor classroom that brought colour and natural inspiration to our experience. For me, it reinforced the necessity of integrating business, social and environmental thinking to ensure any company remains both profitable and in harmony with its surroundings.”

The ESI is working with businesses and enterprises across all sectors of the economy in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and beyond to translate research and expertise into innovative business practices, products and services in order to respond to the challenges of environmental change. It has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme (£22.9M) and the South West Regional Development Agency (£6.6M), with significant support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

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