Cascadia Seaweed receives $73K from Canadian Food Innovation Network

The Sidney-based climatetech firm is focused on extending the shelf life of fresh seaweed.

The Cascadia Seaweed logo on the side of a boat

Photo supplied.

The Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) announced its latest round of funding and a Vancouver Island outfit is a recipient of some newfound cash. Sidney-based climatetech firm Cascadia Seaweed is taking home $73,771 from CFIN. The company is one of six recipients this funding round, and the lone British Columbian outfit. 

“Climate change is the most important issue of our time,” reads Cascadia Seaweed’s website. It’s hard to disagree. But, what’s a bit more nebulous — at least to me — is where seaweed fits as a climate change champion. It turns out that, like on land, it comes down to forests. Kelp forests, specifically. Cascadia Seaweed points out that these are an integral part of improving ocean health and supporting high levels of biodiversity in marine environments. Kelp produces oxygen. Kelp captures carbon. But like lots of facets of our on-land life, the impacts of climate change are turning the environment on its head. So, they need a helping hand from organizations like Cascadia Seaweed. 

Right up there with climate change is food waste. The pair go hand-in-hand like a dystopian couple strolling the boardwalk of doom. This is where Cascadia Seaweed’s CFIN-funded project — the mouthful “Monitoring the Variance in Beneficial and Hazardous Components of Seaweed to Optimize Industrial Processing for Food Applications” — comes in. It seeks to extend the shelflife of fresh seaweed while developing and scaling up processes that can help Canada produce more value-added innovative seaweed products for international markets.

Seaweed is a unique output rich in promise. There are no agricultural land requirements to speak of. This makes it a sustainable food crop opportunity. Plus, it’s one that, according to Cascadia Seaweed, is experiencing growing global demand. Canada currently plays a small role in the worldwide export of these products, but as the seaweed sector continues to mature, Canada has the potential to become an industry leader.

Specifically, a leader in the burgeoning blue economy. The idea that economies can be the same colour as the ocean was first presented to me by Emilie de Rosenroll. De Rosenroll is the CEO of the Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies (COAST), a Victoria-based innovation hub that seeks to empower innovators who have made oceans their workspace. She even quantified the blue economy for me: a mighty $3 trillion space by 2030. So, not only is sustainable seaweed good for the planet, it’s good for GDP too. 

“As pressure mounts over arable land and populations continue to rise, we must recognize opportunities within the Blue Economy to produce products while adapting to climate change,” said Susan Levang, VP of brand operations for Cascadia Seaweed. “Receiving this grant from the Canadian Food Innovation Network will help us engage in innovative processing trials to continue building trust with consumers while developing improved ways of processing our cultivated, climate-positive seaweed crop for human consumption." 

Food waste, naturally, is close to the heart and the chequebook of CFIN. The previous round of funding saw cash dolled out to Trendi, a Burnaby-based robotics firm working to eliminate food waste. It’s also not the first time CFIN has looked to the seaweed industry. The Surrey-based firm with Vancouver Island connections, Canadian Pacifico Seaweeds, received investment in May. All the funding has come via CFIN’s innovation booster program.

The initiative, which is administered by CFIN and supported by the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, provides flexible and rapid support to small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as they address food innovation challenges or technical hurdles that have created barriers to achieving their commercialization goals. The program has invested over $1.5 million since 2021. This most recent investment is the organization’s last until 2023. 

It goes to show that Canada is blossoming into a food innovation hotbed. “These six projects are prime examples of the breadth of exciting food innovation that’s happening here in Canada,” said Joseph Lake, CEO of CFIN. “CFIN is extremely excited to fund homegrown, innovative solutions that have the potential to reduce emissions, increase domestic production, and establish Canada as a global leader in new and emerging food sectors.”

“Innovation and technology are key to the success of our agri-food sector,” said François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry. “That is why our government continues to collaborate with the Canadian Food Innovation Network to invest in projects that help to build a stronger and more sustainable food industry. This new funding will help Canadian food companies to be more efficient, create good jobs for the country, and ensure Canada remains a global leader in sustainable food production.”