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Project Seagrass and Ragus: planting seeds for a sustainable future
At Ragus, we want to do more than just fulfil our corporate social responsibility requirements. As a business committed to making a tangible difference to our world, last year, we partnered with marine conservation charity Project Seagrass to support their mission to conserve and restore seagrass meadows all over the world. Earlier this year, I visited the charity’s nursery on the Welsh coast to help the team learn more about this vital, yet virtually unheard-of marine plant.
What is seagrass, and why is it important?
The chances are you’ve never heard of seagrass, but meadows of this humble but powerful plant Zostera marina are havens for biodiversity in seas all around the UK and the rest of the world. By sequestering and storing carbon in the seafloor, seagrasses are a cornerstone of marine ecosystems.
The magic of seagrass also lies in its ability to release vast amounts of sugar, which microorganisms would usually consume and convert into CO2. As we know, too much CO2 is harmful to the environment.
Along with the sugar, seagrasses also produce phenols (plant chemicals) that put most microorganisms off from consuming the sugar. However, the specific kinds of microorganisms that do consume the sugar when the phenols are around produce essential nutrients like nitrogen, that nourish marine life.
In the last 40 years, the Earth has lost one third of its seagrass meadows globally. Since 2013, Project Seagrass has been committed to reversing that trend. Through its role at the bottom of the food chain, seagrass meadows support communities and livelihoods, providing vital nutrition for close to 3 billion people, and 50% of animal protein to 400 million people in the developing world. Working to conserve seagrass ensures that those communities can thrive now and into the future.
The goal: 2,500 hectares of seagrass by 2050
Since its start, Project Seagrass has been steadily growing in size and ambition, working with other organisations and communities across the UK to replant and restore large areas of seagrass meadows that have been lost or damaged.
Up until now, the team has collected seeds from established plants on the seabed, before processing and replanting them back in the wild. After hand picking the seeds at low tide or diving down to pluck them from the plants, they’re planted back out to restore areas within Wales, England and Scotland. But due to the sheer scale of what needs to be done to build back our seagrass meadows, the team needed to find a way to turn their restoration efforts up a notch.
In January, I spent the day with the Project Seagrass team on the first large scale seagrass nursery in the UK, near Laugharne, Wales. This new nursery means the team can cultivate and harvest seeds for their restoration projects on a much larger scale, allowing them to carefully monitor the genetic diversity of seeds, reduce costs and ultimately enable them to collect and plant more seeds every year. All of this is pushing Project Seagrass closer to their goal of restoring 2,500 hectares of seagrass in the UK by 2050.
While money made the seagrass nursery possible, human hands and brains put it together. Whenever I get the chance to spend time with Project Seagrass at one of their sites or on the beach—as I did last year—I grab it. Being a part of the team that created it and keeps it running is a powerful experience that connects me to their mission and constantly reminds me why we’re so lucky to support them.
Project Seagrass and Ragus: a shared vision for the future
Work at the nursery is tough and extremely rewarding at the same time. On the day, I joined in with the team lifting boxes of seedlings out of the water, before taking measurements of the plants and putting them back again. Based in polytunnels that shelter the plants, the nursery uses a water filtration system that the team needs to constantly maintain and monitor too.
Currently at the research and development stage, scientists at Project Seagrass are conducting sediment and microbiome trials. The aim is to establish the best performing sediment and find out how to bring the healthiest microbiome (bacteria and other microorganisms) into the mix. Then, the team will be able to optimise plant growth at the nursery, allowing them to maximise the number of seeds they generate.
So far, Project Seagrass has planted over a million seeds. At Ragus, as a ‘Bronze’ sponsor, we’re proud to be one of the companies privileged to partner with them to support biodiversity and help secure a better future for our planet.
At Ragus our commitment to sustainability—evident in everything from the way we light our factory to the packaging we use for our bulk sugars and the suppliers we choose to source from—is our driving force. And on a personal level, as a lifelong surfer and outdoor sports enthusiast, my love and respect for the British coastline makes me very proud to call Project Seagrass our partner.
Our dedication to corporate social responsibility steers our business. Do you know a charity or community programme we could support? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how partnerships work. To see more partner news and updates, follow Ragus on LinkedIn, or to learn more, contact Henry on email@example.com.
Joining Ragus in 2017, Henry is the fifth generation of the Eastick family to work in the business. He has worked across our company, implementing plant and technology improvements in the factory to working in the lab developing a knowledge for our products. He focuses on our raw materials procurement as well as leading our digital transformation, adapting new technology and plant to meet our needs. His deep interest in nature and sustainability makes him a dedicated and passionate CSR manager.