Member Koastal equips fishermen to cultivate seaweed


Koastal, located in Gothenborg Sweden, contributes to the expansion of seaweed cultivation in a special way. They enthuse fishermen to set up, operate and scale seaweed farms during the low season for fishing. To help them, Koastal aggregates and certifies their seaweed production to result in the best product-market fit for large-scale buyers.

Can you tell something about Koastal?

Samuel Amant: ‘We mainly help fishermen but also other sea enthusiasts to set up, operate and scale seaweed farms. Our aim is to decentralise the value chain, particularly in the production of seaweed. We focus on ensuring that each activity is carried out by the party that can do it best.

So, at Koastal, we specialize in selecting sites, applying for permits, and designing the rigs that assist fishermen. They are the experts on the water, with an unparalleled understanding of its dynamics. Our role is to educate them on seeding, monitoring, and harvesting. At the end of the year, we also guarantee payment.

We provide the seedlings, and based on the quantity, we can estimate production volumes. If you commit to producing 20 tonnes, we ensure that all 20 tonnes will be purchased back. This supply guarantee allows us to negotiate back-to-back contracts with buyers effectively.

After harvest, we stabilize the seaweed. Our focus is on enhancing our expertise in stabilization techniques, such as freezing, fermentation, and chemical preservation. Currently, we don't utilize drying methods due to the current technological limitations for cost-efficient drying.

Once stabilized, we bring the seaweed to market. Our aim is to remain a commodity broker, not engaging directly with end customers or delving into product development. Our primary goal provide cost-efficient seaweed as a commodity. ’

How many seaweed farms do you have right now?

‘We have 5 operational farms in Sweden with fisherman, still relative small volumes, so we are estimated to the production of 20~ish tonnes of sugar kelp and ulva. At the moment we are very much focused on scaling, so at the next year we are looking to add a substantial amount of farms, in Denmark, Sweden and Norway to go internationally. And to grow our farms and our volumes.’

Why exactly is Koastal enthusing fishermen to grow seaweed?

'The seaweed industry is seasonal, and if you only have one high season, then you also only have one source of income. Having all your operations, revenues and risk in such short timeframe makes you very vulnerable as a business.

A fisherman is already family with these seasonalities. In summer he fishes for certain species of fish, in autumn he is more likely to fish for lobster and crabs. The advantage is that seaweed grows in winter and early spring, which is generally a quiet period on fishermen's calendars. Adding seaweed in this dead season diversifies their income even more and helps them carry overhead costs of their other activities. Overall, this ensures that a small fisherman can continue their local, independent business.

Lastly, seaweed buyers who source from KOASTAL’s network have a higher supply security as the production - and therefore risk - is spread out over the farming network.'

How do fishermen react when you offer to help them cultivate seaweed? 

'Fishermen are by nature rather conservative, so they do need some convincing. We usually give presentations at local auction houses, where we tell them what seaweed cultivation entails and what we can help them with. The local community then invites the fishermen under the guise of free coffee and cake.

If they are interested, we first do one pilot with them, where we take all the risk. Then we say: here you have a plot, and the equipment and we teach them how to do it. Once they realise they are working with familiar materials like buoys, anchors and ropes it usually allows them to understand if and how they want to continue.'

Why do you want to join North Sea Farmers?

'We think learning from each other is very important. To bring seaweed to a full commodity, organisations like you are needed.'

What can you help other North Sea Farmers with?

'We are looking with large companies in the food and livestock industry looking for supply-ers of local seaweed, we can help with that.'

Why seaweed?

'I see seaweed as an important key to the future. We need more biomass for everything; food, an alternative to certain products. And at the same time, there is a scarcity of agricultural and building land. This will become even stronger if we start farming organically. Then there will be less yield, and we need an alternative.

We need to start using the sea more. If we can grow biomass there in an economically cost-efficient way for all the things we need, that's an important key to the future.'