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New garden fertilizer business builds on P.E.I. family’s interest in seaweed  | CBC News


Joe Dorgan’s livestock feed made from seaweed gathered on the beaches near his home in Seacow Pond, P.E.I.,  has attracted international interest.

Now his daughter-in-law and her father have created a business using Dorgan’s seaweed mixture, packaged for sale as a plant fertilizer for home gardeners. 

“It was very interesting because I traditionally lived in large cities, and I come from a family of accountants. So seaweed is not something that we ever really thought about,” said Marie-Eve Blanchet, CEO of Storm Organic Plant Nutrition. 

“Digging a bit deeper into the history as well, seaweed is very important for northwestern P.E.I., around Tignish. [We’re] trying to bring that industry back, breathe new life into it.”

Dorgan sells his feed in 50-pound bags (about 22 kilograms), by the tractor-trailer load, while Blanchet is targeting the home gardener.

A woman holds a bag of seaweed fertilizer
Blanchet says Storm Organic Plant Nutrition was inspired by conversations with her father-in-law. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

“It’s a granulated or flaked seaweed. There’s nothing added to it or anything,” Blanchet said.

“It’s really just taken from the shores, sun-dried in the fields, and then sorted to get all the extra stuff out of it, and crushed.”

Seaweed benefits

Blanchet said the fertilizer is also different from other products on the market. 

“It’s more of a bio-stimulant, in the sense that it is a very light fertilizer but it wouldn’t necessarily be the main nutrition that your plants would need to grow. But it helps boost everything else,” Blanchet said. 

“It’ll help build more soil life, which is essentially the bacteria, the microbes and everything. That’s what feeds your plants all the good nutrients.”

Handful of multi-coloured seaweed
Because the seaweed is collected from the shore, it’s usually a blend of four different kinds. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

Blanchet said she hasn’t done any studies yet, but that she’s used previous research on the different types of seaweed in their product — a mix of red and brown algae and kelp.

“Because our seaweed is mostly collected from the shores, we take whatever is there,” Blanchet said.

“A lot of the other seaweed products on the market are usually just kelp that is cut straight from live plants, and so that gives us a higher concentration of minerals and vitamins than products that have just one specific species in it.”

A man stands next to a pile of seaweed holding a handful, looking at it
Joe Dorgan holds a handful of seaweed that’s been dried in this October 2021 picture. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Blanchet said sourcing the seaweed from P.E.I. beaches has advantages, but also challenges. 

“Because it’s collected on the shore, there are regulations associated with that, but there’s no risk of over-harvesting. We’re not touching the ocean ecosystem at all,” Blanchet said. 

“It also means that our production is a little bit less predictable, because we rely on storms to rip it off those rocky shelves and bring it back ashore.” 

I know it’s a lifetime business. It can be for generations.– Joe Dorgan

Blanchet said there is enough supply to meet demand for now, but they still have other options. 

“Our supply mostly comes from the western side of the Island, but we definitely have the possibility of getting harvesters from all around the Island,” Blanchet said.

“Right now, the industry is the older people who remember…. There’s not a young generation. And so that’s what we’re hoping to encourage.”

A woman and man stand on a beach looking at some seaweed in her hand
Blanchet and Dorgan checking out some seaweed. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

Younger generation

Dorgan began feeding seaweed gathered from nearby beaches to his dairy herd as a natural supplement. He established North Atlantic Organics in 2007.

He said he’s excited to see his family growing the business. 

“I know it’ll work and she’s the one that can make it work,” Dorgan said.  “I’m getting old. I want to pass something on to the younger ones.”

A man in blue overalls stands in a production facility
Dorgan began feeding seaweed gathered from nearby beaches to his dairy herd as a mineral and vitamin supplement. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

Sales of the animal feed are going well, he said. The company is sending its first container to China, and others are heading to Japan.

He said the seaweed business deserves more recognition.

“What we’re doing here is that we brought an industry to life that was nothing, it was just waste on our beaches around the Island, and we made an industry out of it,” he said.

“I have my daughter-in-law, who is going to take this business a lot farther than I can. She has two little kids, that this will hopefully be theirs someday.

“I know it’s a lifetime business. It can be for generations.”


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