Seaweed processor in £7m expansion after grant win

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Funding boost: Hebribean Seaweed managing director Martin Macleod with HIE’s Joanna Peteranna
Funding boost: Hebribean Seaweed managing director Martin Macleod with HIE’s Joanna Peteranna
A seaweed processor based in the Outer Hebrides has started work on a new £7m expanded facility after receiving £659,000 from a Scottish Government development agency.

Hebridean Seaweed Company, located at Arnish Point near Stornoway in the Isle of Lewis, plans to double its workforce to 26 following the awarding of the grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The business, which supplies markets around the world, said the new jobs would be created to support growing international demand for its products.

HIE’s grant will allow the firm to invest in a larger, more efficient drier, a liquid extract plant and a food-grade processing area.

The new facility will also host a new research and development department staffed by a “highly skilled workforce”​ focused on developing innovation in the seaweed industry, Hebridean Seaweed said.

Last December, the company was awarded £800,000 from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for the construction of the new factory.

Knotted wrack

Set up by Martin Macleod and Malcolm Macrae in 2006, the company harvests Ascophyllum nodosum – better known as knotted wrack – which is claimed to be sustainable and organic.

Harvesting takes place all year round, with cutting carried out both manually and mechanically using a fleet of seaweed harvesting boats. The raw seaweed is dried in a tunnel drier before being milled to the customer’s specification.

Hebridean Seaweed mainly produces dried asco for human and animal food, and seaweed extract in liquid and powder form. Its products are also used in animal feed supplements, as well as in the soil enhancement, alginate, cosmetics and nutraceutical industries.

Macleod said: “The Outer Hebrides has vast amounts of seaweed and we only use a percentage of it 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.”

‘A valued food ingredient’

Joanna Peteranna, account manager for HIE’s Outer Hebrides area team, 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.”

Scottish Government 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.”

In 2010, The Crown Estate handed Hebridean Seaweed an award for excellence for its “innovative approach to blending traditional and modern cutting methods and its strong commitment to quality”​.

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