What is Sargassum?

Sargassum Fluitans and S. Natans are a genus of large brown macroalgae common in Sargasso Sea of the Atlantic Ocean around the Caribbean. The macroalgae’s gas-filled bulbous pneumatocysts allow it to float in large blooms that never attach to the ocean floor. 

Sargassum has been recorded in the Caribbean as far back as the 15th century, however it is only since roughly 2011 that these seaweed ‘mats’ have started inundating beaches throughout the region in unprecedented amounts and become a large nuisance to Caribbean nations and islands. Once the Sargassum blooms wash ashore, they begin decomposing and releasing odorous hydrogen sulphide which is environmentally detrimental.

What is Sargadust?

Our company seeks to extract alginate from sargassum, thus transforming a harmful waste stream into a sustainable chemical additive that can be used in the biomedical and food industries as well as emerging 3d printing and earthen construction applications.

A circular economic approach towards dealing with sargassum advocates for a 3 step method: first harvesting the macroalgae, then processing or biorefining it into a usable material, and finally manufacturing products out of that. Sargadust aims to tap into the second step: taking the raw material and, via a series of bio-based chemical and mechanical processes, extracting sodium alginate in a stable powdered form.

Sargassum blooms are expected to increase with rising temperatures and eutrophication that promotes their growth, suggesting both the raw material of our model and the demand for its removal are likely to persist for some time. Sargadust initially aims to tap into the existing demand for alginate additives in the biomedical and food industries - markets that are already well established - as a sort of parallel to chemical alginate companies but with more of a focus on circular economies and waste streams. As progress is made in this field, we hope to eventually venture more into the emerging earthen building material and biomaterial industry.

Who are we?

Daniel Vanderhorst, Founder

Daniel is an adjunct associate research scientist at Columbia University, where he works alongside David Benjamin in researching viable building science applications of biomaterials.
Will Cao, Founder

Will looks towards graduating with a joint Master of Science in Urban Planning and Master of Architecture from Columbia GSAPP in May 2024. 


Douglas Woodward: Douglas is Adjunct Professor and Associate Director, Professional Development and Practice in the Urban Planning program at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning.

Alex Schofield: Alex is Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts where he teaches and researches on emerging technologies, material research, and their implications within the built environment.

Nicolás Gómez Andújar: Nico is Marine Resource Management scholar-activist and local Culebran expert on adaptive governance strategies in coastal socio-ecological systems.