Aquaculture for all

Swanage seaweed startup vies for public support

Water quality Sustainability Restorative aquaculture +7 more

Ocean Origin, a startup which is seeking to establish a pilot seaweed and shellfish farm near Swanage, has attempted to gain local community support for the project through a recent public meeting.

Two people smiling.
Co-founders Luke Robinson and Kate Thompson hope to have the farms seeded by the end of 2024

© Luke Robinson

Ocean Origin, a startup which aims to establish two small farms integrating native seaweed and shellfish aquaculture off the Dorset coast, has attempted to gain community support for the project by hosting a public meeting to explain the proposed plans and quell any fears from the local community.

Ocean Origin is currently in the early planning stages of the development, and is seeking licensing and permission to undertake a pilot project in the area.

The extensive effort undertaken by the seaweed startup follows vocal public opposition to similar plans for seaweed farm development near Port Isaac, on the Cornish coast. The proposal for the Port Isaac aquaculture development provoked a significant outcry amongst locals, including protests from the actor Martin Clunes who called the proposal “nothing short of criminal.”

Compared to the plans for the Port Isaac farm, Ocean Origin's development proposal would see the farms operating on a much smaller scale, with the plans taking into account the impacts that the development may have on other ocean users.

“In terms of size, our farms will only be 100 metres by 200 metres at most – much smaller than the site in Cornwall which is said to be the size of 180 football fields and absolutely enormous,” said Luke Robinson, according to Swanage News.

“The model we are trying to prove is a small-scale artisanal farm. Rather than trying to produce enough seaweed for, say, bioplastic bags where you would make a penny a bag, we are looking to produce more valuable products where you don’t need a vast quantity,” added Robinson, who will run the farms alongside Kate Thompson, his wife.

During the public meeting, Robinson and Thompson outlined the measures they would take to ensure minimal impact on other ocean users - one of the key points of protest against the controversial Port Isaac plans.

“Our site is 2.5 kilometres out to sea due east of Swanage Pier, so it won’t be visible from the beach at all, and all of the seaweed will be suspended three metres under the water so there are no issues with that. Even the most intrepid swimmers wouldn’t go out that far - I don’t think there’s any problem with conflicting space with other users of the sea,” explained Robinson.

“Most of the fishermen are crab potting and are most welcome to put their pots around the site, I don’t have an issue with that – the research actually suggests that what we want to do will encourage crabs, lobsters and small fish to the area. And I will also need to rent their boats to help with the harvesting, so I hope to build up a good relationship with the fishing community,” he added.

If Ocean Origin's proposal is successful, Robinson and Thompson aim to have the structures in place and seeding complete by November 2024, with a first harvest occurring in early 2025.

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