Cash crop: Vancouver Island seaweed producer banking on big bite of consumer market
Cascadia expects to have products on the shelves of B.C. grocery stores by the summer of 2021. (Cascadia Seaweed)
VICTORIA -- A joint venture between a coastal Vancouver Island First Nation and a Sidney company is betting that North American palates are ready for the taste of seaweed.
Cascadia Seaweed launched an offshore kelp farm with the help of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation last year, and now say they are ready to move from cultivation to consumer production.
“Our highest and best use for the seaweed – the bounty of the sea – is the human food sector,” Cascadia president and CEO Mike Williamson told CTV News Vancouver Island.
“We want to ensure B.C. has food security," Williamson said. "We are making climate positive use of the environment and we are helping coastal communities and First Nations sustainability.”
The company has partnered with Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood, out of Port Alberni, to plant and harvest kelp in two one-hectare tenures near Bamfield in their first year of production.
Now, the coastal conglomerate says with the help of the Port Alberni seafood processing hub, it wants to start ramping up production of consumer products.
The company says it's now planting 10 times the amount of kelp it did in the first year of business.
“We are looking for products that consumers will recognize for use around the home and on the go," Williamson said. "Things like: a seaweed-type jerky, a salad, chips, crackers."
Seaweed products currently sold in B.C. are almost always imported from Asian nations.
Cascadia says as the market for healthy, sustainable seafood grows in B.C., the federal and provincial governments should look at investing more heavily in researching aquaculture streams like seaweed farming.
“The most important thing for us is that if it says seaweed on the package that the main ingredient is seaweed,” Williamson said.
Cascadia expects to have products on the shelves of B.C. grocery stores by the summer of 2021.
The island seafood company also hopes to break into lucrative grocery markets in the U.S.
The company has not yet decided what name it will use to brand its seaweed products.
The same Sidney company has previously partnered with a local distillery and brewery to create seaweed-flavoured spirits and beer.