Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has awarded funding of £659,000 to the Hebridean Seaweed Company Ltd which is located at Arnish Point near Stornoway in the Isle of Lewis.
The company has started constructing a new facility at as part of a £7m expansion project and once completed it is expected to double the number of employees to 26.
The business already supplies markets around the world and new jobs will be created to support the growing international demand for its products.
Set-up by Martin Macleod and Malcolm Macrae in 2006, the company harvests Ascophyllum nodosum – better known as knotted wrack which is completely sustainable and organic.
Harvesting takes place all year round with cutting carried out manually and mechanically using a fleet of seaweed harvesting boats. The raw seaweed is gently dried in a tunnel drier and then milled to the customer’s specification.
Increasing demand for seaweed stretches across many sectors of the food industry. Products made by Hebridean Seaweed Company are also used for animal feed supplement, soil enhancement, alginate, cosmetics and nutraceutical industries
Hebridean Seaweed is the largest industrial seaweed processor in the UK and in December last year, the expansion project was awarded £800,000 from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for the construction of the new factory.
The company plans to form a research and development department at the new facility which will be staffed by a highly skilled workforce developing innovation in the seaweed industry.
The main products produced by Hebridean Seaweed are dried asco for human and animal food, and seaweed extract in liquid and powder form.
Managing director, Martin Macleod, said: “The Outer Hebrides has vast amounts of seaweed and we only use a percentage of it and in close co-operation with the Crown Estate and other bodies.
“We look forward to growing the business from our Isle of Lewis base substantially in the coming months and years. We are delighted that HIE is supporting us in our venture and we look forward to working with them as we grow the business.”
HIE’s grant will allow Hebridean Seaweed Ltd to invest in a larger more efficient drier, liquid extract plant and a food grade processing area and helps the company towards its goal of creating the most modern seaweed processing facility in the world.
Account manager for HIE’s Outer Hebrides area team, Joanna Peteranna, said: “Seaweed is a valued food ingredient in parts of the world and the market for these products is growing worldwide with increasing healthy eating awareness. There is also great demand for seaweed in the medical and healthcare, animal feed, fertiliser and the rapidly growing biostimulant markets. The creation of new jobs at Arnish Point is great news as the roles fit well with the highly-skilled labour pool in Lewis. We wish them all the best with the expansion project.”
Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn, said: “Today’s funding announcement is great news for the local people and surrounding area, as it brings with it more jobs, investment, and the possibility for further development to the Isle of Lewis. I was fortunate enough to visit the factory site during a recent trip to the Islands, and see first-hand the ambitious plans for the factory, which will only serve to strengthen the relationship between Scottish produce and international markets.”
The company’s innovative approach to blending traditional and modern cutting methods and its strong commitment to quality won it an award for excellence by The Crown Estate in 2010.