The cool, clean ocean waters of Maine hold potential for farming kelp. Its high nutrient content – it is an excellent source of iodine, iron, fiber and calcium – and the fact that it is fairly easy to farm, have hooked Paul Dobbins, president of Ocean Approved. And he’s spreading the word, most recently through the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Sea State Lecture series.
Kelp requires little input or labor, notes Dobbins. It grows best in winter, in low light and in low temperatures (around 11ºC), when it doesn’t have to compete with micro-algae in the water. It feeds by absorbing nitrogen, phosphorus and CO2 from the water, a good thing for the environment.
Maine’s bays have “too much” of these elements, he adds, making kelp farming a good way to manage the health of the state’s coastline.
But taking up kelp farming isn’t a direct route to the bank.
Kelp farmers in the US are in direct competition with lower-cost kelp farmed and produced in China.
The fact that Maine has a good reputation for the quality of its seafood production, including kelp, and that it is locally produced, will go a long way towards helping keep Maine kelp ahead of the competition.
Portland-based Ocean Approved is owned by Dobbins and five others. In the past two years their sales have increased 400%. The company sells three species of kelp and prepares them in various ways for sale, including “sea slaw,” “sea rounds” and “kelp wraps.” For more information visit http://www.oceanapproved.com/
- Quentin Dodd
Illustration courtesy FCIT
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