The waters around Vancouver Island offer ideal conditions for growing seaweed and that is exactly what Cascadia Seaweed, a Sidney-based company is planning on doing.
But on a much bigger scale.
The company is developing a kelp-based jerky, which could be used as a substitute for traditional jerky in North America and would to use locally grown seaweed.
“The vision from our side is to provide a delicious and highly nutritious local food supply, where the industry sector that supports that is here on Vancouver Island,” said Cascadia Seaweed’s head of programs, Liam Collins.
“We’re trying to bring kelp more to the North American palate,” he added.
The problem is most of the seaweed consumed in North America comes from Asia and growing and keeping the two specific types of kelp Cascadia Seaweed wants is a lot easier in Asia than in the waters around Vancouver Island.
“It’s very time-consuming to dry seaweed as you can imagine and finding the best ways to do that in the quickest time possible are critical inputs for this industry,” said Collins.
But thanks to a federal grant, researchers at North Island College will help Cascadia find the best way to preserve its kelp.
Researchers at the school will take frozen raw kelp from Cascadia Seaweed and run it through a series of processing trials, evaluating steps such as washing, blanching, drying and packaging.
Using a method called value-stream mapping, researchers will analyze the entire process, from the time the seaweed is landed at a primary processing facility until it is ready for shipment to secondary processing.
The method will help Cascadia identify processing pinch points and efficiencies.
“We are taking raw kelp and turning it into something that his shelf-stable that can later go on to secondary processing and create specific food products,” said Allie Byrne a researcher at the school’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation.