WHY Seaweed?!~ Laura Svab

Home Forums 2. Inspire Section Discussion (May 16 to May 22) WHY Seaweed?!~ Laura Svab

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  • #2268
    Laura Svab
    Participant

    For me, this is the most important topic of consideration. Our WHY is the driving force for why we are all taking this course. My WHY for pursuing the potential of this business is connected to my work as a high school science teacher but also deeply resonates with my innate passion to effect positive change. I am a problem solver, and there is no greater problem that we as species face than global warming. It is a subject that is too often avoided because the weight of its reality is so incredibly overwhelming. When I learned that there is potential for reducing methane emissions by 20-50% NOW, I needed to learn more. I have discovered thus far there is plenty of evidence based research that identifies seaweed as not only able to reduce methane emissions in cattle, but that it also offers sustainable solutions to food insecurity; especially, with an exponentially growing global population, eco friendly solutions to fertilizers and fuel shortage concerns (biomass), seaweed farming practices that can stabilize marine ecosystems and provide large CO2 absorption without requiring fresh water or fertilizer, as well as tremendous health benefits to both humans and animals.

    Methane gas is the second most anthropogenic greenhouse gas after CO2, and accounts for almost 30% of global emissions, and about 13% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions. It is also more than 25-30 times as potent as CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Accumulatively, over the next 10 years for example, methane emissions will have a significantly greater impact on climate change than carbon emissions, and therefore must be addressed. During the COP26 meeting, which took place last November 2021, Canada announced its support for the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to reduce methane emissions by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. Canada’s Minister Wilkinson committed to reduce methane emissions across the broader Canadian economy and to reduce oil and gas methane emissions by at least 75 below 2012 levels by 2030. Globally, agriculture and landfills account for the largest sources of methane emissions, so the government of Canada has committed to supporting Canadian farmers and industry partners in taking action to reduce emissions, sequester carbon and make their operations more sustainable, productive and competitive. The government has committed investments through new programs, such as the Agricultural Climate Solutions initiative and the Agricultural Clean Technology Program aiming to help farmers adopt new, beneficial and clean practices that boost productivity and lower emissions. Knowing all this, I cannot help but feel that seaweed has the potential as the best answer available to meet these targets, and offer effective, sustainable solutions now.

    As a business, seaweed farming and products are not a new revelation; however, in North America, we seem to not have fully embraced the potential of this market. Currently in Canada, the West coast, in the past few decades, has recognized a demand for seaweed products for food and health supplements; specifically, with Kelp. One company in particular, Cascadia Food, has been looking to expand their productions by partnering with Aboriginal communities. There are also other smaller seaweed retailers in both the East and West coast with proven business models. All of the companies I have explored so far have offered great inspiration for where I could and would like to take this venture. I envision many beneficial and collaborative partnerships that could have a massive positive impact for so many. The more research I do, the more I am convinced that I must continue forward and see where this takes me. My why and the business why are so clear to me. Now it is a matter of how best to proceed.

    Determining the WHY for my customers has forced me to consider who is my actual customer, and where should I first focus my business planning. After some reflection, I have decided that for the purposes of this course I will consider my business plan in terms of if I were to be starting a seaweed farming business in the East coast of Canada. In this first phase of my plan, I would focus on farming three species of seaweed, as well as harvesting seaweed that accumulates on the shores, and offer this product to both farmers and in retailers as an organic feed supplement and fertilizer. I will specifically focus on engaging with dairy and beef farmers, and promote the health benefits to their animals that organic seaweed feed supplement can offer. There is evidence that the vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants in seaweed can increase the health and reproductive processes of cattle, as well as improve their digestive processes (thus the reduction in methane gas). I will also advise farmers that using organic seaweed could also be used in the promotion of their product and help support the dairy and beef industries reputation, demonstrating they are forward thinking and committing to finding solutions to reduce emissions. With their commitment to using seaweed and participating in our farming efforts, they could also possibly advertise their company as being net zero, which is a massive incentive. I also hope that through the government initiatives mentioned above that I will be able to acquire funding that could possibly subsidize my product and ultimately lower production costs for farmers. I see this as being a crucial piece to having the impact I seek, as the farmers will need strong incentives to consider changing their practices. Ideally, if I can prove this concept, I see an expansion of this endeavor that could possibly lead to substantial subsidization that could lower food costs, support our farming communities, form partnerships with coastal Aboriginal communities, create jobs, and have a significant positive impact on the environment for future generations.

    #2271
    Judy Evans
    Keymaster

    Laura,

    What a good idea to focus on the farming aspect for this course. The process of planning will be replicable to other aspects of Kelp if you go in another direction later.

    Judy

    #2273
    Erin Melnychuk
    Moderator

    Hi Laura,

    You have put so much thought into your personal WHY, your business’ WHY, and your customers’ WHY… Bravo!

    I wonder if there are specific, peer reviewed and published studies, which validate your desired approach? This would be a quick way to sell your concept to cattle ranchers and feed companies. Otherwise, I wonder if there is step in your process which is research related, to prove this approach first? Seems like something you might be able to partner with a university on. Or in Alberta, we have a crown corp, called Alberta Innovates, which often tackles big innovation related research. Since Alberta is a significant beef producer, they might be interested.

    e.

    #2297
    Laura Svab
    Participant

    Hi Judy and Erin,

    Thank you both for your feedback.

    Judy, I really appreciate the article you sent me. It definitely offered me insight into what is happening in the seaweed world out west. My research so far has focused on developments here in the East coast, so it was quite illuminating. I really appreciated the piece on how one company is collaborating with coastal Aboriginal communities, and this opened my mind to so many other possibilities. I have begun looking into coastal communities here in the East coast. I am also just beginning to look into different farming practices, so I was glad to learn the names of a few prominent botanists in the field. In particular, I would like to connect with Louis Druehl as he has been studying kelp specifically for over 6 decades, and apparently offers farming consultation to businesses around the world. A great read indeed! 🙂

    Erin, thank you for your recommendation in connecting with Alberta Innovates. I have not heard of them. My husband told me that IRAP (Industrial Research Assistance Program) as part of the National Research Council might be able to assist with further research , but I think it would be wise to involve provincial organizations as they likely have more influence over local stakeholders. Especially in Alberta, if I wanted to enter into that market (which I do!), then I would likely need as much evidence and support to back up this initiative. There is quite a bit of research and evidence out there in support of seaweed supplements. I still have quite a bit more to go through, but it is all pointing to that this is a solution to methane emissions, that if subsidized through government funding could have numerous positive impacts. For the farmers, who are the customers that need convincing, I see that there are several ways to incentivize them to participate. The first being that by providing them with the supplements, this ultimately lowers their production costs, and will therefore lower the cost of their products. This is also a win for the government as it lowers the cost of dairy and meat prices, which are increasing significantly due to inflation and transport issues. This is also a win for farmers in the industry who are being attacked for the emissions that their products create. It could change the entire image of the industry; especially if they can market their practices as net zero…the seaweed farms play a crucial role in this piece. Not only would they be participating in lowering emissions, but they would also be supporting the restoration of aquatic ecosystems.

    I see government partnership as the key to giving this concept legs, as it would need to be trialed in several farms and data would need to be collected, before it could expand. There is already data out there, but I think the governments involvement and support in the project would provide the farmers with the reassurance they need to participate. I am not really in this to make money, I am in it for the immense impact it could have. I think it could be quite profitable, even with subsidization by the government, and has the potential for growth in other sectors such as fertilizer and food, or possibly even carbon credits in the private sector, which could subsidize costs.

    Thanks again for your feedback.

    Laura

    #2307
    Anthony Bullen
    Participant

    Laura,

    This is amazing and could have a huge impact on the world. What are the three specific types of seaweed you would look at harvesting? Newfoundland has in the past given huge grants for aquaculture. This in my eyes would be an easy sell to the provincial government here and would create tons of jobs. The rural area I am from has been doing more and more aquaculture in the form of salmon farming. They have seen first hand the impact of unsustainable harvesting practices and are changing from traditional fishing practices. Lobster is a huge market where I am from they have changed their practices in harvesting by marking and releasing spawning females. The mark lasts for years so that even if they are caught again they will be re-released. There are now so many lobsters that I find them in open terrain with shell scrape style defences dug to protect themselves. Normally they hide in Kelp or under rocks. All this to say that the fisherman are becoming stewards of their fishing ground and now believe in taking care of habitat to the point that they will shun fishermen who do not follow sustainable practices. I think kelp farming would be welcomed where I am from and the fishermen would support it. See how this course goes but if you are interested in coming to Newfoundland we can set something up and I can be your local guide if you want.

    You almost have me convinced to scrap my plans and start a kelp farm…lol. A weed you can get grants to grow that you don’t even have to water and it changes the effects of global warming! I look forward to learning more about this venture as the course progresses.

    Keep up the strong work!

    Anthony

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