To browse The Cornish Seaweed Company website or to peruse the goods – from food stuffs to spa products – is to be dumbstruck by how much they’ve done. For my latest Feed, I hooked up with Caro to hear the company’s story – from there to here in just 18 months.
It all began with local radio, a walk and a change in thought. Having returned from working abroad as an eco-engineer, installing green energy and water systems from Peru to Japan, Caro was ready to seek out her next adventure, a little closer to home.
Living in her caravan and scrubbing boats – a suitably earthy existence – lent her a fair bit of time to dwell in a thoughtspace so many of us find ourselves in: “what will I do with my life?”.
On a walk along the Falmouth coast this switched to “what do I want to create for my future? And what do I want to fill my life with?” After making a list of what really mattered to her; an earth-felt lifestyle, meeting new and interesting people and having her own business, she was more open to possibilities that could provide those things. Which is when it happened.
Curled up in her caravan, the radio crackled and tuned into Radio Cornwall’s Farming Today show. They were doing a feature on an Irish seaweed company.
“I’d worked in Japan, where seaweed is a massive part of the national diet,” explains Caro, “but this radio show made me make the connections I never had before.”
Caro continued to explain those connections, with two examples. “Take the Maoris and the Japanese. Both cultures have seen a relatively quick change in diet in historical terms, adopting more western foods. Maoris are prone to weight gain as a result of this quick change whereas the Japanese are more easily able to maintain a healthy weight. The difference? Seaweed. The continuation of seaweed in the Japanese diet seems to help digestion and aid weight loss.”
With superfoods and organic farming firmly part of our zeitgeist, Caro had found her big idea.
As chance would have it Tim, an old friend with a background in science and ecology was in the same boat. And so – with just an idea – they sailed together to Ireland to glean all the seaweed harvesting knowledge they could from the Irish seaweed company.
“One of the best things about my job is meeting young companies run by people who are excited about what they’re doing.”
On their return to England Caro and Tim discovered no one was harvesting seaweed here. A gap they set out to fill. With mountains of research to undertake, it wasn’t an easy task. They began working with authorities to produce sustainable seaweed harvesting regulations and testing the seaweed against food standards. They registered as a social enterprise too, which gave them the opportunity to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds and give back to the community and the land which had inspired the project in the first place. “One of the best things about my job is meeting young companies run by people who are excited about what they’re doing,” Caro enthuses.
Setting up a space to store and dry their locally harvested seaweed took several attempts, including a ramshackle handmade shed, “which was never going to be weatherproof or up to regulations!”, however, once they’d got this sorted, they were up and running.
Now their seaweed products are selling in local stores, including award-winning café, Picnic, as well as nationally, through distributors. But they won’t stop there.
Caro and Tim are all up for collaborating with different people and businesses. One such collaboration has led to the production of a range of seaweed spa products in partnership with St Enodoc Hotel’s River Spa, opening up a whole new path for the business.
This pair of entrepreneurs are doing everything themselves, from harvesting to marketing, and though it’s not been easy, they are proud of what they’re creating.
Feeding on seaweed has left me inspired and in awe. It just goes to show that with hard work and dedication to create something you can be proud of, there really is no stopping you.
If you would like a day out in the ocean harvesting seaweed, the Cornish Seaweed Company is looking for harvesters in the summer. So get in touch and discover the miracle of seaweed for yourself.