A pair of hands in purple gloves holding seaweed

PlantSea ‘turning the tide’ on plastic pollution with innovative seaweed products

SMART Innovation helped PlantSea:

  • Develop biodegradable seaweed products as alternatives to harmful plastics
  • Enter potential mass market with haircare and horticultural products
  • With guidance on design, manufacturing, and intellectual property

Anglesey-based PlantSea is developing low carbon bioplastics products using seaweed, utilising funding and expertise it received through the Welsh Government’s EU-funded SMART Innovation programme.

The exciting new company was formed in 2020 by three PHD students who met at Aberystwyth University. After winning a £10,000 inventor prize, they decided to work together to find a solution to damaging petroleum-based plastics.

PlantSea’s bold ambition is to turn the tide on plastic pollution with innovative and cost-effective seaweed-derived sustainable and biodegradable materials to replace single-use plastics.

The company is researching and developing seaweed for a variety of uses, such as packaging and hair care. Target products include agricultural mulch film, which is used significantly in the horticultural industry in Wales and throughout the UK. This type of film covers plants in the early stages of their growth cycle and has the potential to unlock a mass market.

PlantSea contacted SMART Innovation in February 2020 to look at how the company might approach making an agricultural plastic, with the aim of creating a business model that enabled it to slot its novel biomaterials into existing manufacturing methods.

SMART Innovation provided guidance on many aspects of the company’s product development process, from design and manufacturing to intellectual property that has helped push the project forwards.

Gianmarco Sanfratello, director of research and product development at PlantSea, said: “SMART Innovation is a great support programme because it helps with the research at different stages. We benefitted from the fact that we could receive good funding at the early stage, and importantly, they believed in us.”

Aside from its main target market within horticulture, the funding and advice PlantSea received through the programme has led to the team working closely with Welsh company Olew Ltd and Bangor University on a hair care brand. This involves using PlantSea’s bio polymer packaging for hair care products.

The funding and support received has been so useful that PlantSea is now hoping to work with SMART Innovation once more for additional funding, supporting the next stage of the development of its sustainable and low carbon bioplastics product, including prototyping.

Expanding on the support received from the Welsh Government’s SMART Innovation programme, Alex Newnes, director of technology, sustainability and environment at PlantSea, said: “The Innovation Specialist has been incredibly supportive. He gave us all the information and encouragement we needed to know which direction to take and keep an eye on us.”