The most well-known use of seaweed is probably wrapped nori at your average sushi restaurant. What might surprise you is that it’s actually a key ingredient in many foods and household products, like beer, chocolate milk and even toothpaste. This versatile and largely unknown industry is currently making waves in Atlantic Canada through a Nova Scotia based company, Acadian Seaplants Limited (ASL).
“The seaweed industry is bigger than most people think,” said Jean-Paul Deveau, President of Acadian Seaplants. “Food for direct consumption actually only makes up about 10 per cent of our business.”
Born out of the idea that a seasonal business could become a year round industry to support a community, ASL was founded in 1981. Today, ASL is a world leader in seaweed harvesting, buying from 250 seaweed harvesters in Nova Scotia, 900 worldwide, and exporting their products to more than 80 countries. With about 320 employees, no small thing given the size of the community, ASL is working at expanding their business to continue their success.
To Ireland and beyond
This year ASL expanded its business by acquiring Arramara Teoranta, Ireland’s state-owned seaweed harvesting company. This purchase will allow ASL to expand their supply worldwide, and grow their R&D capacity. With plans to implement facilities in Ireland similar to those in Atlantic Canada, ASL is hoping to bring the prosperity or new jobs and economic stability to the community as well.
“[People are] consuming fewer chemicals than in the past,” says Deveau. “Our researchers demonstrate how our products can provide the natural solutions people are looking for. This is an area that brings us more customers every year and we look forward to expanding this customer base with our Irish operations.”
With strong potential in the seaweed processing industry it was critical to the Government of Ireland that Arramara be acquired by a company that could maximize its potential. It was ASL’s success in building their business from the ground up, as well as their strong financial background, that made them a sure choice.
“Making a foreign investment can be a major milestone for any Canadian company, but Export Development Canada (EDC) and RBC, were committed to making this happen for ASL,” said David Surrette, EDC Regional Vice-President for Atlantic Canada.
“It’s great to see a homegrown Nova Scotia company like Acadian Seaplants, leading the way in a global industry. This is the kind of company EDC wants to invest in,” added Surrette.
Keeping it local
This new Irish facility will help to grow the Canadian market as well, as ASL becomes more competitive and better equipped to facilitate new business. In fact, ASL has always remained true to their Atlantic Canada roots. With a head office in Halifax, they also have offices in rural New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island so that their researchers and staff can be close to their harvesting operations.
“Acadian is unique in that we invested heavily in research and development. We have 25 researchers on staff in Nova Scotia, including 10 PHDs, which helps us stay competitive,” said Deveau. “With this R&D focus we can offer advanced solutions for companies seeking a more natural alternative for their products,” Deveau added.
“What’s really exciting is that we were able to create an industry where one didn’t exist before. It was an underutilized raw material that we were able to capitalize on benefiting people across Atlantic Canada,” said Deveau. “EDC helped by guaranteeing our future obligations, which means our company can evolve.”