Aquaculture for all

Leveraging seaweed knowledge into success

Husbandry Sustainability Consumer +13 more

Fascination with seaweed and kelp prompted Anne-Lise and Bjørn Viken to leave their secure jobs behind and join the seaweed industry – six years later, they’ve leveraged their knowledge into a key industry asset.

Antje Gonera and Stine Alm Hersleth
Anne-Lise and Bjørn established the seaweed company Ting med Tang

Antje Gonera and Stine Alm Hersleth feel bladder wrack and toothed wrack that Bjørn Viken has picked along the shore. © Wenche Aale Hægermark, Nofima

It all started six years ago. “We had become hooked on seaweed and kelp and knew that this was what we wanted to work with. The driving force was that seaweed and kelp are an underutilised yet sustainable resource and that we are at the forefront of the development,” says Anne-Lise.

They envisioned developing foods but were reluctant to take on the major investments and all the regulations tied to the approval of new food products. Instead, they make a living offering courses for the civil service, private individuals and companies that are seeking knowledge about the opportunities of seaweed.

From pickled seaweed to seaweed safari

Anne-Lise and Bjørn were still in the planning phase when they participated in an innovation day in the autumn of 2016. The workshop was run by senior scientist Antje Gonera and senior adviser Stine Alm Hersleth. Among other things, it covered the Doblin model, and it proved to be a turning point for the two entrepreneurs. It sparked a series of ideas.

“We went from pondering which seaweed and kelp food products we should develop and produce to realising that the knowledge we were already sitting on was our strongest card, and that it was this that would give us a competitive advantage in several parts of the value chain. Our core business is the communication of knowledge about seaweed and kelp, and we’ve developed a viable concept on that basis,” says Bjørn Viken.

Anne-Lise and Bjørn established the company Ting med Tang, with a course kitchen and premises in Engelsviken, just outside Fredrikstad. The company’s main product is the “Seaweed Safari”. Over the course of a day, participants gain both theoretical and practical knowledge. They gather seaweed and kelp along the shore and learn how to clean it and how to prepare seaweed and kelp dishes, which they all eat together at the end of the day.

Innovation knowledge in practice

“The aim of the workshop was to introduce companies to innovation and how an innovation mindset can get companies out of their comfort zone and help them dare to think new and differently,” says Stine Alm Hersleth, senior advisor at Nofima.

group photo
Anne-Lise and Bjørn Viken realised that their seaweed knowledge was a key business asset

Senior scientist Antje Gonera and senior adviser Stine Alm Hersleth (both of Nofima) are impressed by how Anne-Lise and Bjørn Viken cover many of the innovation dimensions in the Doblin Model. It thus becomes more difficult for any competitors to copy the business idea.

She and her Nofima colleague, senior scientist Antje Gonera, conducted several practical exercises, including the use of the Doblin model “ten types of innovation”. The model shows that the opportunities for innovation are far broader than one might imagine and that innovations can take place in many dimensions, such as networks, core processes, products and product systems, services and customer experiences.

Anne-Lise and Bjørn realised that knowledge delivery could be their product, and learned that the more innovation dimensions they use, the more difficult it will be for others to copy them. Thus, the idea of the Seaweed Safari was born. The goal became creating value for their customers.

Teaching civil servants, schools, companies, chefs, marine biologists and everyone in between

“We believe that seaweed and kelp have a natural place in the green shift. For example, kelp is now being tested for use in 3D-printing skin. There are currently about 22 Norwegian cultivation licenses. We see a new industry developing, but things take time,” says Anne-Lise.

kelp under water
Norway has approved 22 seaweed farming licenses

Macroalgae cultivation is gaining traction as a sustainable and potentially regenerative ocean industry © National Academies

Anne-Lise and Bjørn are experiencing growing interest in the knowledge they deliver. Seaweed and kelp are a locally sourced food that can be sustainably foraged from nature. Their customer list includes businesses of every size, organisations, museums, municipalities, schools, as well as groups and private individuals.

The vision is to transform the mysteries of the shoreline into delicious everyday food.

“We offer Seaweed Safaris both based at our own course facilities or by travelling to our customers. We also share our knowledge and experiences on our website, as well as via social media. The internet is an important channel for attracting new customers and keeping in touch with both customers and partners. Many of our customers are loyal and recommend us to others,” says Bjørn.

Teaching the critical knowledge

There are several factors that are important to take into account when eating seaweed and kelp. Anne-Lise and Bjørn start the Seaweed Safari by explaining both why people should eat seaweed and kelp and why they must not eat too much.

“Seaweed and kelp can be an ingredient that adds flavour, both salt and umami, to foods. Seaweed and kelp contain loads of minerals and vitamins. Nutritionally, it is important not to consume too much iodine, and different types of seaweed and kelp contain different amounts of iodine. Kelp, in particular, can contain a lot of iodine. It’s great to replace salt with dried and crushed seaweed and kelp; they’re healthier than regular table salt. They’re also sustainable and can be found all along the coast,” Anne-Lise points out.

Participants also learn where, what and how to forage. One should only pick seaweed and kelp in places where there is throughput. The tides are important. Pick what sticks. Cut it off, don’t pull because then you will ruin the holdfasts.

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