Tropical macroalgae, seaweed culturing | Photo: H.D. Moreno

Tropical Macroalgae Bio-based Products for Use in Natural Cosmetics (TroMaCos)

As important primary producers and habitat providers, marine macroalgae play a key role in coastal zones worldwide. In the tropics, the Indo Pacific is the hotspot of macroalgae biodiversity, with South East Asia and East Africa containing the highest number of macroalgae species (>1300 known spp.)

Macroalgae have been harvested and produced for use in the food, pharmaceutical and health, biofuel, fertilizer, and cosmetic industries due to their high protein, lipid, and polysaccharide content and bioactive properties. The cosmetic industry, in particular, has increased utilization of macroalgae for their high source of minerals, polysaccharides, proteins, and secondary metabolites which may act as emollients, skin conditioners, skin whiteners, and anti-aging and skin protective agents.

Vietnam has a 3.200 km long coastline and covers over 1 million square km of costal tropical ecosystems, representing high productivity and rich biodiversity (> 800macroalgal species). Thus, the survey, study and management of marine bio-resources are of high interest. Within Vietnam, the climate of Central and Southern Vietnam is suitable for the development of macroalgae aquaculture, with existing models in Ninh Thuan, Khanh Hoa, Kien Giang and Phu Yen province. Vietnam has the potential and the capacities (costal area, environmental conditions, natural biodiversity) to farm macroalgae, which have an enormous potential for the economy and livelihoods. Compared to other agricultural practices, seaweed farming is a relatively simple technology, which requires low initial capital investments and provides a rapid and high return on investment, due to short grow out cycles and favorable prices.

The study of macroalgae classification and physiology for farming purposes in Vietnam began in the early 1960s. To date, Vietnam only exploits a tiny fraction of the potential to develop seaweed resources. Due to the increasing interest in macroalgal products for industry purposes, there is a need for further investigation and evaluation of the present macroalgal resources, as well as for the development of seagriculture.

In the frame of the project TroMaCos the ZMT and its industry partner the company Merck KGaA, are aiming, in collaboration with the Vietnamese institutes INPC, NITRA and NIO to study the tropical macroalgae diversity and ecophysiology and identify potential new sources of bio-based products for the cosmetic industry.


Project Partners (Germany)


International Project Partners

Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT)

WG Algae and Seagrass Ecology
Dr. Mirta Teichberg
Dr. Anna Fricke

WG Tropical Marine Microbiology
Dr. Astrid Gärdes

WG Ecophysiology
Dr. Andreas Kunzmann

Merck KGaA


Institute of natural products Chemistry (INPC)
Dr. Le Mai Huong

Nhatrang Institute of Research and Technology Application (NITRA)
Ass Prof. Dr. Bui Minh Ly

Nha Trang Institute of Oceanography (IO)
Prof. Vo Si Tuan, Dr. Nguyen Xuan Vy