Seaweed is an emerging superfood, and the global demand for seaweed products outstrips what is available to collect from wild stocks. Dr Chloe Darkson is a marine biologist and with her husband Brad Darkson (a proud Narungga man) she is developing a model of on-land cultivation using pumped seawater that will allow them to collect, cultivate and process seaweed into a range of products. The target customers are consumers following a plant-based diet with a sustainable source of nutrition. They currently have a fisheries permit to wild harvest storm-cast kelp and they are working on a project with SARDI to develop land-based fresh cultivated seaweed operations.
This is a novel approach and will be important in the establishment of a viable and sustainable seaweed industry in Australia. In addition, Chloe and Brad are consulting with local Indigenous Elders to ensure correct cultural protocols are being followed as they establish their business on Kaurna Sea Country and Land.
Chloe joined the Ideas Program to build skills in networking, marketing and product development. She has explored her initial customer segment (fresh seaweed products for chefs) but has realised that this will be a difficult segment to service due to legislative delays in establishing the cultivated seaweed operations.
She has now pivoted to developing a range of food and beauty products for direct to consumer sales (online and via farmers markets) that can be developed at relatively low cost from the wild-harvested kelp they already have available. This will provide revenue and market insights while the longer-term plan is being further developed.
It was amazing to link in with such a diverse group of farmers, and see the progress made by the cohort throughout the F2F Ideas Program. The expertise and experience of the coaches was also an incredible resource.
Chloe is also looking at the bigger industry picture and is exploring the formation of a new industry association to support the growth of the seaweed sector in Australia.