September 27, 2021

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Business is my step

Seaweed sector stays afloat, seeks advancement during pandemic

3 min read

SACO, Maine (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has been a wrestle for substantially of American seafood, but at least one…

SACO, Maine (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has been a struggle for significantly of American seafood, but at the very least a single sector of the market has located a way to develop for the duration of the crisis — the seaweed enterprise.

Seaweed harvesting and farming, centered mostly alongside the rocky and chilly coast of Maine, has grown for various many years as interest in meals and dietary goods produced with the gooey maritime algae have risen in reputation. Like several parts of the seafood industry, seaweed is highly dependent on the restaurant sector, which designed the pandemic a potentially important setback.

But that hasn’t been the circumstance, according to state records and members of the field. Representatives for Atlantic Sea Farms, a Saco firm that functions with two dozen seaweed farmers and accounts for most of the seaweed aquaculture in the point out, claimed it virtually doubled its harvest this 12 months to 450,000 lbs.

Other growers mentioned they continued harvesting seaweed via the pandemic, while obtaining personnel and consumers was far more sophisticated than a typical yr. The field was ready to pivot to marketing additional of its goods by means of retail spots than dining establishments, and that intended it prevented the problems that befell other seafood industries, these kinds of as the difficult-hit oyster organization, stated Tollef Olson, president of the Maine Seaweed Council.

“Almost all the merchandise we put out have been stabilized,” Olson stated. “Some of the wholesale business certainly dropped off, but we’re seeing additional shelf area, and much more on the web platforms.”

The statewide harvest of farm-raised seaweed in Maine grew from about 50,000 lbs . in 2018 to about 275,000 lbs . final calendar year, state data show. Atlantic Sea Farms alone thinks its farmers will harvest more than 800,000 lbs . in 2021.

The seaweed is processed into items these types of as seaweed sauerkraut and frozen kelp cubes for smoothies. The state’s seaweed marketplace also features a wild harvest of rockweed, which is made use of for livestock feed and fertilizers.

The pandemic strike Maine ideal all-around the exact time as the seaweed aquaculture business’s spring harvesting time, mentioned Bri Warner, main executive officer of Atlantic Sea Farms. Members of the sector have experienced to hustle to get seaweed solutions in new shops thanks to restaurant closures, and have experienced some success, she claimed.

“Four ounces of a kelp in smoothie cubes is not the very same as kelp on just about every salad in Sweetgreen which is heading out the door. We’re getting extremely creative about how we offer,” Warner mentioned. “We feel extremely good about remaining equipped to climate the storm.”

The seaweed business’s skill to grow through the pandemic is an outlier within just the U.S. seafood small business. Consumer desire for seafood at places to eat dropped by additional than 70% in the course of the early months of the pandemic, and that sent troubling financial ripples by way of the small business, according to one analyze printed in the scientific journal Fish and Fisheries in November.

The seaweed marketplace has been constrained by restrictions on the amount of folks who can get the job done on farms, explained Sarah Redmond, one of the entrepreneurs of Springtide Seaweed, a Gouldsboro grower. Growers typically expand the seaweed underwater on ropes in bays, and the function is labor intensive.

Nevertheless, the progress in people today cooking at house, and hunting to experiment with new elements, all through the pandemic may possibly have assisted the seaweed trade, Redmond stated.

“We’ve in fact witnessed an boost in desire for our seaweed merchandise,” she claimed. “There’s continue to a demand from customers for nutritious food stuff and wholesome elements.”

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