Riding the Blue Economy, innovators turn crisis into opportunity

Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at Rum and Sargassum Inc.

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For island nations, the health of the ocean is crucial to food security, sustainable employment and economic competitiveness. But climate change, overfishing and pollution are posing increasingly severe threats to island communities’ livelihoods. One solution is the blue economy, which refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth while preserving the health of marine ecosystems.

Many innovators and entrepreneurs are already using the ocean’s resources in ways that benefit people without degrading the ocean’s natural capital. Blue economy initiatives such as sustainable fishing, marine tourism, renewable energy generation, and marine biotechnology are helping small islands grow their economies in a sustainable way.

One example is Rum and Sargassum, a Barbados-based company with plans to produce CNG transportation fuel from low-cost local waste streams including rum distillery wastewater, Sargassum seaweed and Barbados Blackberry sheep.

Dr Legena Henry, CEO and Founder, shared the company’s clean energy mission at a recent gathering of senior financiers, development partners and industry regulators, hosted by Island Innovation and PwC. Called Island Finance Forum, the initiative highlighted unique financial challenges faced by island communities and the solutions for sustainable economic recovery and inclusive growth in a post-pandemic world.

“In 2017, 20 million tons of Sargassum seaweed influx entered the Caribbean Sea and Central Atlantic. In 2022, in just the month of June, that same volume entered the mid-Atlantic. By February 2023, that same volume had entered the Caribbean and mid-Atlantic region. So the problem is already here, it’s getting worse, and it’s here to stay. The science all points to needing solutions that meet this arriving Sargassum at the scale that it’s arriving,” Henry said.

Speaking at the Forum, Professor Avinash Persaud, Climate Envoy for Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, warned countries currently not deemed as climate vulnerable, could very well see themselves being classified as such in the future.

The forum was held under the theme, “Investment for Sustainable Development”.

“Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at Rum and Sargassum. Our solution empowers Barbados’ coastal communities to avoid harmful amounts of Sargassum biomass, and we enable Barbados’ energy sector to deploy Sargassum seaweed as a free source of biofuel feedstock,” Henry added in a post-event interview.

“We hope to replicate successful deployment in Barbados throughout all the territories of the Caribbean Sea.”

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