Galway seaweed company raises €1.4m in funding
A GALWAY-based seaweed business has raised €1.4m from a variety of private investors on the cusp of a deal that should increase production fivefold.
About half of the money was provided by an investor from the US, while non-executive directors also participated.
Milltown-headquartered Ocean Harvest Technology produces animal feed using carefully crafted mixes of seaweed, harvested both in Ireland and around the world.
It operates a production facility in Connemara as well as one in Vietnam which employs 35 people. It sources other varieties of seaweed from around the world.
The business was founded in 2005 by Patrick Martin and Dr Stefan Kraan, who moved to Galway from the Netherlands two decades ago to complete a PhD, and never left.
They are pioneering the use of seaweed in animal feed. Because seaweed is so rich in nutrients, the feed helps to reduce occurrence of common ailments in farmed livestock and fish. This reduces farmers' dependency on antibiotics and chemicals.
Different formulas have been developed for different species, ranging from feed for salmon and shrimp to feed for cows and pigs.
The formula developed for farmed salmon helps to dramatically reduce the affliction of sea lice, the company claims, and improves the salmons' taste.
The formula developed for horses helps to improve the animal's red blood cell count, a recent study found.
Competitors use only one or two types of seaweed, Dr Kraan said, which is harder on the environment and produces less nutritionally rich feed.
The company has raised around €12m since its founding, all from private investment.
It expects to shortly sign a contract that should increase production fivefold by the middle of next year, providing it with distribution channels into 45 new markets.
It recently inked a deal to supply Chinese feed group Hailong with 500 tonnes of dry feed per month.
Dr Kraan said the company would like to create products that harness the benefits of seaweed for humans, but the EU approval process is too slow and laborious.
A recent government report called Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth suggests that Ireland has vast potential to tap into a €1,200bn global marine market for seafood, tourism, oil and gas, marine renewable energy, and new applications for health, medicine and technology.
In 2007, Ireland generated 1.2pc of GDP from its ocean economy, supporting about 1pc of the total workforce. Global marine activity contributes 2pc of the world s GDP. The EC estimates that up to 5pc of Europe's GDP comes from sea-related industries.
Sunday Indo Business