TANGO Seaweed: Seaweed is the future
By Ndéla Faye | Photos: TANGO Seaweed
It was their shared interest in the world of seaweeds and a vision to develop a new type of aquaculture that, in 2016, led Annelise Chapman and Bjørn Otterlei to found TANGO Seaweed AS. Kelps cultivated in clear Norwegian ocean waters become organically certified food products that are healthy for people, as well as for the environment.
Located just north of the West Cape, TANGO Seaweed is a pioneer in seaweed farming in Norway. When the company first started, it was very much a jump in at the deep end. “It was a real learning curve for us, as we had to gain a true understanding of open-water systems, ecology and turning seaweed into a business,” says Chapman, who has a background in marine science.
TANGO Seaweed is now at the forefront of an emerging seaweed economy in Norway and Europe. Building a completely new value chain requires different types of knowledge, and the team and network surrounding TANGO include researchers, former fishermen, engineers, financial advisors and marketing experts, but also foodies and ocean enthusiasts. “We believe that the people make our company,” Chapman adds.
Currently, the company is cultivating local seaweed species, sugar kelp and winged kelp at their sea farm at Skarveskjæret. No chemicals are used during the cultivation process, where minute seedlings applied to horizontal long-lines right below the surface grow into two-metre plants. During winter, there is little visible development, but the seaweed grows rapidly in the spring as the days get longer. Harvesting takes place between April and June. To ensure top quality, TANGO Seaweed harvests and dries the seaweed still hanging on the ropes – almost like tomatoes on the vine. As seaweeds absorb nutrients and minerals from the environment they grow in, clean sea water is essential for obtaining good-quality biomass. TANGO Seaweed’s location is organically certified based on long-term water quality assessments. “We are dedicated to producing seaweeds in accordance with nature’s principles, and we are delivering products that are healthy for people as well as for the planet,” says Chapman.
There is great potential in seaweed With TANGO Seaweed’s cultivation process, there is no need to add fertilisers or fresh water, and no arable land is being used. Everything the seaweed needs to grow is present in the water. “We are simply harnessing what is naturally available to us, and utilising it in our product,” Chapman explains, adding that the drying process alone transforms the seaweed into a high-quality and very stable product that is ready to be used – mainly as a food ingredient.
However, according to Chapman, it takes time to build the market, and education is a crucial element on this path. While people in Asia have a long tradition of eating seaweed and kelp as sea vegetables, we in Europe have just begun to rediscover seaweed as an important source of nutrients from the sea. “The Vikings knew that seaweed was rich in vitamins and minerals, and after the war, seaweed and kelp were used as animal feed. Nowadays, it is not only the sushi wave that has swept over Europe, but high-profile chefs in the Nordic region are at the forefront of using the sea’s plants in modern Nordic cuisine,” says Chapman. “There is great potential in seaweed. It is a versatile product, and a great marine resource that future generations can also benefit from.”
As a marketing tool, TANGO Seaweed has also developed its own series of organically certified kelp products. This range includes seaweed and nut mixes, as well as pure kelp flakes. “The combination products function as a door opener, getting customers acquainted with a new kind of taste and making it easy for them to use seaweed in the kitchen,” Chapman explains. Both sugar kelp and winged kelp are characterised by their strong salt and umami flavours, which make them a great addition to just about anything, from soups and salads to veggies, fish and meat. On top of their exquisite taste, the nutritional benefits of kelps are numerous: they make a healthy table salt replacement, are rich in fibre and iodine and low in fat, and contain many important minerals and vitamins.
TANGO Seaweed’s products are available for sale from small retailers around Norway, or by pre-ordering on demand. The company aims to expand its sale of seaweed further into Europe.
“We are on a journey inspired by fascinating marine plants, a virtually unlimited number of seaweed products and a genuine desire to improve marine resource use for future generations,” Chapman concludes.
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