Q&A

 

How can I get my hands on your sea vegetables? If you're a restaurant or other commercial enterprise please contact us here directly or feel free to contact specialty wholesaler Natoora Melbourne. We also ship direct to public (within Australia) via our online store or you can visit one of our friendly retail outlets here on the Mornington Peninsula including Torello (Dromana), Cellar and Pantry (Red Hill), Nourish (Balnarring), The Merricks General StoreThe Somers General and EdiGrocer (Edithvale - close enough to the Peninsula).  We are a labour-intensive, small-scale outfit focused on producing the highest quality kelp products possible so you won’t find us everywhere.

What’s regenerative about what you’re doing? As kelp grows, it does some impressive and slightly radical things. Because of human-driven increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there is more CO2 dissolving into the ocean which causes ocean acidification. This is a problem as a great array of marine life depends on the ocean having suitable pH for survival. Kelp has the ability to mop up large volumes of carbon (and nitrogen) – in fact around 5 x the volume of carbon that a tree or other land-based plant can, and this helps to deacidify the ocean. We also dive for Wakame which, in Australia, is an introduced and invasive species. Removing Wakame aids the regeneration of native kelp species like Ecklonia radiata (aka Golden kelp). It’s been having particularly hard times lately with rising sea temperatures and the proliferation of invasive sea urchins. It's a bonus that Wakame is a great tasting seaweed and full of health benefits for humans.

How should I use your seaweed? Seaweed can be consumed in such a diverse range of dishes it really is only limited by your imagination. We have a recipes page which can be a good diving off platform but there are heaps of great recipes and ideas on the web generally.  If you do something great with our kelp can you let us know? We’re always excited to hear how folks are incorporating seaweed into everyday cooking.

But I thought growing seaweed was all about reducing cow farts. There are some well-resourced organisations in Tas and SA growing Asparagopsis (a red seaweed) and running trials feeding small amounts to livestock and in doing so reducing their methane production. If this ends us being commercially viable it could have some impressive impacts on reducing agricultural emissions. Fingers crossed.

You say you care about the planet, so why are you packing your products in plastic? (No one has actually asked this yet but it absolutely should be asked). We’ve trialled a number of compostable pouches for our dried kelp, but significant volumes of oxygen have been leaching through the pouch walls which can render our kelp unsafe for fresh consumption. Our bags are recyclable PET but we need the Redcycle program or similar to fire back up soon so they can be easily recycled. We’ve chosen PET jars for our Furikake as they are fully recyclable in your home recycling bin and they weigh a great deal less than glass and this saves us a load of emissions when freighting the product. PET also takes less energy to recycle than glass. With time we are very keen to be using 100% compostable packaging but the evolution of suitable materials for our particular application is taking some time. So although plastic is far from ideal, we think it’s the best way we can get our early products to market just for now. If you have any ideas on sustainable packaging solutions for us we'd love you to get in touch.

Why do you dry your kelp before packaging? Fresh kelp has a very limited shelf life so drying it gives it a stable and safe shelf life of multiple years (so long as you keep it cool and in an airtight container). We dry our kelp down to a water activity reading of less than 0.6 - a level at which no microorganism can exist. The other benefit of drying kelp is that it drastically reduces the kelp’s bulk and weight which means lower emissions when shipping. Then you can rehydrate it (if desired) very easily with fresh water in a few minutes. It’s also worth noting that we choose to air dry our kelp at around 30 degrees c. Doing so ensures the full nutritional value of the plant is preserved.

Do you need a licence to do what you do? Yes, we hold permits with Vic Fisheries to both dive for Wakame and also farm native kelp on our sea farm at Flinders.

I’m keen to get in on this industry, where do I start? Brilliant. We hope there will be a thriving seaweed industry in Australia in the coming years, but it’s very early days and the regulatory framework to support an emerging seaweed farming industry in Victoria is still in the process of being established. We're still figuring things out as we go, but on the topics of nursery, farm design and farming operations we got started by connecting with an excellent, free web-based resource called Greenwave (US). It contains a wealth of geeky, seaweed farming information from a more developed industry than we have out here right now.