December 31, 2012

Bounty of sea grows in Maine waves

Maine's flourishing seaweed industry looks to expand with new products such as energy bars and lip balm.

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

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VitaminSea co-owner Tom Roth collects dulse, a type of edible seaweed, during low tide on Casco Bay. Roth says his company comes up with ideas for new products by “messing around” and seeing how things taste.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Paul Tarkleson and Tom Roth of VitaminSea head home after collecting dulse during a low tide in Casco Bay.

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"We're very interested in seeing a kelp-farming industry get off the ground. We're interested because we think it would be a great opportunity for Maine, and we can't get enough farmed seaweed to meet the demand," he said.

The privately held company doesn't disclose its revenues, but Dobbins said that Ocean Approved will have 30,000 feet of line in the water this year for growing kelp -- 10 times as much as it did last year.

On a recent afternoon, Tom Roth and one of his harvesters, Paul Tarkleson, took a skiff out for a short outing on Casco Bay. They gathered Irish moss and dulse to ship to a girl in Indiana who wanted the seaweeds for a school project. They also collected seaweed for VitaminSea's own research projects.

Roth said his company comes up with ideas for new products by "messing around" -- trying various things and seeing how they taste.

Roth, who grew up eating white bread, Tastykake and Entenmann's baked goods, estimates that 80 percent of people know they should eat seaweed but are unsure how to go about it.

"I'd like to see more and more people eating seaweed," said Roth, who now drinks a cup of konbu tea daily as part of his seaweed habit. "It's such an underutilized plant."

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:


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Additional Photos

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The kelp farming company Ocean Approved raises kelp in indoor aquariums from spores to harvestable size.


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