A group of young entrepreneurs are finding innovative uses for sargassum algae, a brown seaweed that washes on shore in massive quantities and is a serious problem for the tourism industry in southeastern Mexico, home to world-class destinations such as Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
The products they have developed from the weed include livestock feed and fertilizer, as well as creams, sunscreen, hair treatments and other cosmetics.
"In December, we'll bring to market a seaweed paper that's dissolved in water after use so the liquid can serve to water plants," marine biologist Guadalupe Dayre Catzin Uc told EFE.
Catzin, fellow marine biologists Mauricio Gomez Hernandez and Regina Rodriguez Peres and industrial engineer Jose Bernardino Catzin Uc co-founded a company, Salgax, several months ago with the aim of making productive use of the sargassum algae that accumulates on the beaches of their native state of Yucatan.
These young entrepreneurs have spent four years researching and conducting tests in a bid to develop products and also do their part in trying to help solve the world's environmental problems, Gomez said.
They use applied marine biotechnology to develop products that are 100 percent natural.
"That's the only way we can make sure we're caring for the environment," said Gomez, who said a mulch developed from seaweed, Algamulsh, helps lawns and crops retain moisture and obviates the need for constant watering.
After successfully developing feed for livestock, these young entrepreneurs now are striving to develop food products for human consumption.
"Soon we'll have delicious surprises because a lot of prototypes are now being studied," Rodriguez said.
Guadalupe Catzin said products such as new hair treatments that will help restore moisture and shine and treat some kinds of baldness were in the pipeline but were being brought to market gradually due to the high investment costs associated with running a biotechnology company.
She said Salgax not only was providing benefits to people and livestock with its products but by collecting the sargassum algae also was helping clean up the beaches of southeastern Mexico.
Salgax is currently working with its fertilizers and performing tests to gauge the potential profitability of the food-products initiative, according to the company's owners, who last year won a 325,000-peso ($17,473) prize in the 2017 edition of the Entrepreneur Challenge Yucatan Platform competition.