Saco’s seaweed company wants to raise $3.5 million for production upgrades while signing new customer deals backed by celebrity Tom Colicchio.
Atlantic Sea Farms filed private financing documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission on September 23rd. The funding comes a year after Atlantic raised his $3.1 million in venture capital. – Foot processing facility in Bidford. This is four times his size over the company’s previous space in Saco.
The company offers a wide range of foodie products from Maine seaweed. The company started as Ocean Approved Inc., a mussel and kelp farming company. But since 2018, under the leadership of her CEO, Briana Warner, Atlantic has expanded and now has 27 partner kelp farmers across the state. They are lobster fishermen who work mainly in the off-season. These harvesters brought in 970,000 pounds of kelp this year.
It’s not yet clear what the new funding round will mean.
Atlantic Sea Farms spokesperson and chief marketing officer Jesse Baines said the company plans to use the proceeds to expand its market and innovate at its Bidford facility. He did not disclose details.
But on the day of the SEC filing, Atlantic announced a partnership with Plant Based Seafood Co. Plant Based Seafood Co. is a Virginia company that manufactures seafood-like products under the brand Mind Blown. Kelp from Atlantic Sea Farms will be added to the brand’s new Dusted Shrimp and Dusted Scallops offerings this month and to Crab Cakes in 2023. The product will initially be available at his more than 300 Sprouts Farmers Market grocery stores nationwide.
Mind Blown has made headlines for its products and has won numerous industry awards. His Colicchio, a judge on Bravo TV Network’s “Top Chef” series, invested in the company this spring.
Both Atlantic and Plant Based are women-owned businesses that tout their commitment to environmental sustainability and ocean health.
This partnership is also an example of how Atlantic Sea Farms is building demand for Maine seaweed among environmentally conscious consumers. Kelp improves growing water quality by absorbing carbon and other nutrients that could otherwise lead to algal blooms and by reducing the acidity of the water in the growing area. increase.
“Other brands are really keen to have a positive impact on their own sourcing decisions,” Baines said.
The use of domestic seaweed is becoming a way of increasing social credibility for some companies, and branding Maine seaweed as “regeneration” is part of that trend.Atlantic Sea Farms is located in East Boothbay. We are working with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences to quantify the potential of kelp to mitigate climate change and ocean acidification.
Nichole Price, director of Bigelow’s Center for Venture Research on Seafood Solutions, said Atlantic Sea Farms is working with the center and partners to do some research. One is how kelp can reduce what Bigelow and the Island Institute call the “halo effect,” which is the weakening of the shells of mussels, clams and other crustaceans due to ocean acidification. I am investigating whether
“The study is in the process of peer-reviewed publication yet to be published, but we are pretty confident in the results,” Price said. We were able to detect the halo effect: when the mussels were transplanted into kelp farms, they grew thicker, stronger shells.”
These studies are now being replicated in Alaska and Norway.
In another study with Atlantic Sea Farms, Bigelow studied how much carbon kelp beds are sequestered in marine sediments and what properties of kelp beds contribute to carbon sequestration capacity. is developing genetic tools for The lab is also working with Atlantic to study how adding seaweed to animal feeds can reduce the amount of methane that animals emit.
In addition to the environmental benefits of kelp farming, Warner was attracted to the potential economic benefits of coastal areas. Prior to joining Atlantic, he served as Director of Economic Development at the Rockland Islands Institute, where he supports coastal resilience. So she became concerned about the state’s dependence on lobster. In her interview with Talking Food in Maine, she called it a “monoculture.”
In an interview last year, Warner said, “We are now at an urgent and critical point where diversification is needed on the Maine coast. It will never be like it is today, we need diversity now that people have capital and careers on the water.”
She learned that Maine’s owner-operator Lobster Fishing Fleet is well suited to transition to kelp farming in the winter, as it has some of the boats and necessary equipment.
When she became CEO of Ocean Approved, she set out to build partnerships with fishermen and persuaded them to expand into kelp by providing seeds, training and technical assistance to obtain leasing. And to make her deal even sweeter, she also provided a guarantee that she would buy all the kelp Ocean Approved could produce.
The company sought to rapidly tap demand for Maine seaweed. Ocean Approved has forged partnerships with restaurants to introduce Maine kelp as a healthy ingredient on their menus. Sweetgreen, Chef David Chang, Legal Seafood and fast food chain B. Good all participated. Then, with COVID, Ocean Approved pivoted to retail, rebranded as Atlantic Sea Farms, and developed a line of consumer products. It includes kelp cubes for soup and flavor cubes for smoothies, fermented kelp salad, and seaweed kimchi in a package featuring stories from Maine kelp farmers.
The guarantee to buy all partner kelp was a significant move. His 2017 benchmarking study by the Maine Aquaculture Association found that he was only one in six of the seaweed farms profitable, so it was hard to get people’s attention at first.
Sebastian Bell, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, said: “By guaranteeing the purchase of their products, Atlantic Sea Farms greatly reduces the risk of farmers investing time and money in not being able to sell their products.”
Although the 2017 study was conducted in the early days of the field, the profitability of kelp farming has steadily increased since then. The association is currently conducting new research, the results of which should be available by the end of the year.
“With more and more working waterfront families moving in there, I think it’s clear that well-run farms are making a profit,” Bell said. They won’t take the risk.”
Baines agreed, noting that one of Atlantic Sea Farms’ partner farmers made a six-figure profit last year on a four-acre farm. However, kelp farming is now mainly used as a side income.
“It doesn’t replace income from fishing, but it softens the blow of a bad season,” she said.
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