By Max Hauptman and Liz Graves
BAR HARBOR — On the water in Frenchman Bay, in shore-side facilities in Port Clyde and Gouldsboro, and now in the basement of the historic Turrets building at College of the Atlantic, a seaweed business is picking up steam.
Springtide Seaweed is owned and operated by Sarah Redmond and Trey Angera. The company operates a seaweed nursery and processing facility in Port Clyde and has several new pieces to their operation in the works.
“In Maine we have the traditional wild seaweed harvest industry that’s been around for a long time, but the seaweed aquaculture industry is newer, and we need to build up infrastructure for that,” Redmond said.
One project is a 30-acre aquaculture lease in Frenchman Bay near Stave Island in Gouldsboro. That application is still under review by the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
Another is a nursery, processing facility and retail space planned for a former cannery building in Gouldsboro.
And beginning last week, Redmond and Angera are installing tanks and working on renovations to the Turrets basement for a saltwater research and production facility.
The 600-square-foot lab will produce a sizeable amount of stock, Redmond said. One foot of string, seeded with 2-mm plants in the lab will produce up to 10 pounds of seaweed in the bay, she said. The facility will include a test kitchen and a small-scale tank aquaculture setup for year-round plants.
Redmond received a degree in aquaculture from the School of Marine Science at the University of Maine and a master’s from the University of Connecticut. For several years she worked with the University of Maine Sea Grant program as an aquaculture associate. There, she connected with Natalie Springuel, who works for Sea Grant from an office at COA.
“We are very excited and fortunate to be working with COA,” Angera said. “There are tremendous opportunities for students to learn and experiment with seaweed aquaculture, and having so many fresh eyes on our processes will offer us many chances to improve what we do. It’s going to be a great collaboration.”
Springtide grows four types of kelp and is working on cultivating dulse and nori for local waters. The seaweed starts as a spore in a tank or bucket. Water is pumped into the building from an adjoining lobster pound, and purified by electrolysis. As the spores grow, they attach themselves to spools of rope enclosed in plastic piping. Then these spools are attached to buoys inside the aquaculture lease area.
As a winter crop, seaweed has minimal impact on lobstering and other shellfish industries, a fact that was noted by several Gouldsboro citizens who expressed support for the company at a selectmen’s meeting on July 12.
“Each foot of rope can produce around 10 pounds of seaweed,” says Redmond. When it’s ready to harvest, the seaweed will be taken to Gouldsboro where it can be dried and processed.
“There is the seaweed itself, then there are the value-added products,” says Angera. “Seaweed can be used as a thickening agent in foods, as a seasoning, in a variety of extracts, and as a fertilizer.”
The company sells seasonings and prepared food products like seaweed mac-n-cheese, popcorn and pickled seaweed stipes.
In exchange for the space in the Turrets building, Redmond and Angera will work to incorporate the social, environmental and scientific aspects of their business into the college’s curriculum.
“Both Trey and Sarah provide breadth and depth in areas that we are interested in but really don’t have expertise,” said COA biology professor and associate academic dean Chris Petersen. “They complement our work in marine conservation and climate change.”