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News 311 views last update:6 Aug 2012

Seaweed earns success for feed and cosmetics

The Hebridean Seaweed Company in Stornoway on the Isles of Lewis in the upper north of the Britain has won the Crown Estates Marine Business Award for a venture that has created nearly 40 jobs in just five years.

The company has agreements in place with the Crown Estate, which owns 70% of Britain's coastline, and local private estates to exclusively harvest seaweed throughout the Western Isles.
 
It also works closely with Scottish Natural Heritage to ensure the seaweed harvesting is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
 
The company employs eight people in its factory, although a further 36 jobs have been created in harvesting and hauling the crop.
 
Company founder Martin Macleod said: "It's great for us to win this award because we are such a young company.
"Our main customers at the moment are the animal feed sector as mineral supplements, but we also supply the health and beauty sector."
 
The end product is also utilised in a variety of ways ranging from soil enhancement to shampoos, soaps, and body washes.
 
Probiotics and antioxidants
Mcleod was reluctant to talk figures on turnover, but said it "was increasing every year" thanks to growing demand, which potentially includes the health supplements market as well.
 
He said: "We'll be targeting the probiotic market. We are also looking at the anti-oxidant potential of seaweed too."
 
Harvesting takes place all year round, and the cutting is carried out either manually using a sickle or mechanically using a seaweed harvesting boat that cuts off the floating weed and which is then bagged up for loading onto a lorry.
 
Processing
Following arrival at the processing factory the seaweed is fed through a tunnel dryer and milled to the customer's specification.
 
Present output is about 40 tonnes a day, all of which is sent by ferry to Ullapool on the mainland for despatch.
There are about six thousand different varieties of seaweed around the British coast line, all having a different chemical makeup, offering wide opportunities for the enterprising chemist.
 
The Scottish Government is keen to support small businesses in the Western Isles and the sparsely populated West Coast, and this relatively new company is one of a number of enterprises finding success in these remote parts of the country.
 
 

Dick Ziggers

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