Wading knee-deep in the calm waters of a lagoon, workers in northern Tunisia harvest red seaweed, in a nation dubbed a Mediterranean “trailblazer” in cultivating the in-demand plant.
Red seaweed or algae is used for gelling, thickening and texturing agents that are increasingly a substitute for animal-based products in processed foods, and it is also being used increasingly in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
The harvest, the Selt Marine company's first on an industrial scale, comes after years of research and a wait of more than two decades for authorisation to use the lagoons, said French-Tunisian entrepreneur Mounir Bouklout.
Several countries including nearby Morocco have seen their natural reserves of red seaweed diminish in recent years due to overexploitation.
Instead near Bizerte, north of the Tunisian capital, 10 percent of what is harvested goes back into the water, said Bouklout, another seaweed expert.
“We wait for nature to do its work,