FAQ

more about Zeewaar products

Where can I buy your product?

When you are a food producer or store owner outside of the Netherlands, please go this link for more information about our products and services: https://www.zeewaar.nl/uk/zeewaar-products

If you are a consumer in the NL, you can buy our product at the Plus, Deen and Agrimarkt supermarkets. But also in some fish stores and specialty stores. Lastly, the webshop can be handy if you can't find it near you. Dutch store owners can order through Voets Specialiteiten or in the South, at Zeeuwse Zaken.  Business customers, such as food producers and chefs, can contact us directly via verkoop@zeewaar.nl. Requests from abroad can also be directed at verkoop@zeewaar.nl

 

Can I buy in bulk?

When you have a company outside of the Netherlands, please go this link for more information about our products and services. https://www.zeewaar.nl/uk/zeewaar-products

We ship our sustainably cultivated dried and frozen seaweed all over the world. Dried orders can be handled as of 1KG, while frozen orders can be handled as of a 100KG. Sampels of dried can be arranged for any country. Frozen samples take a bit more coordination to get them outside of the NL.

We sell the following types:

  • Royal Kombu (saccharina latissima) - dried and frozen
  • Altantic wakame (alaria esculente) - dried and frozen
  • Sea lettece (ulva) - dried

Please make sure to check what we have in stock.  
We have different dried flake sizes available.
Send your request to verkoop@zeewaar.nl and we'll get back to you!

Do you sell fresh seaweed?

Yes we do, but mainly to food producers who can handle ordering at least a 100 kg per order. We do not sell small quantities of fresh seaweed. Frozen seaweed we do deliver as of 100 kg orders.

Our consumer line of Zeewaar Seaweed Herbs has dried seaweed. The reason is that our dried seaweed mix has the most delicious flavour, is full of nutritional values, and it has a long expiration date.

When you see "fresh-looking" seaweed on the market in the NL, keep in mind that these are all defrosted after having been imported from Asia. The demand is simply not big enough to set up the logistics around fresh seaweed in small consumer portions. But give it a few years, and this will change too!

How does the dried seaweed work in the herb line?

Right after the harvest, the sustainably cultivated seaweed goes into the drying rooms. We dry at low temperatures under 45 degrees Celsius to ensure that all the nutritional values stay in tact. After the drying is done, the concentrated form is left, from which only seawater has been extracted. About 10% of the volume is left after drying. It then gets professionally flaked into different sizes for different purposes. We mix the Sea lettuce and the Royal Kombu, and the Mix with the sea salt for our retail herb line. We have this packaged into the glass jar at a social work place that employs people with various disabilities.

When do you obtain an organic certificate?

For years we have been working on this aspect. In Europe, seaweed is still so new as a food item, that no existing certificate has processes in place to certify our farm. The MSC and ASC (certifying fish) are working jointly on a new standard for responsible seaweed products. The Organic Certificate from the EU, the green logo with the leaf on it, has a very confusing policy. That is organized through certifying bodies per each country. In the NL, that is Skall. We have been trying to get Skall to come to our farm for years now. Their last communication to us, from July 2016 was this: "As you might know, on the 29th of April 2016 [EU] regulation 2016/673 has been published. This implementing regulation includes changes in organic seaweed and algae production. We are currently studying this new regulations and will start with the development of checklists for algae production in September. I believe it will be possible to certify organic seaweed under this regulation starting in May 2017, but we are still working on the interpretation." In other words, we have to wait another year. We have no idea why our sustainable seaweed farm has to wait so many years to simply get someone to come and start the proces! Meanwhile, companies abroad that obtained the EU organic certificate for their animal feed or manure products using wild harvest seaweed, are laughing their head off because they now simply place that certificate on food products as well. Skall tells us "they should not do that." No kidding!!

In fact, when interpreting the existing EU legislation re. Organic Certification, it very clearly states the following: "The products of hunting and fishing of wild animals shall not be considered as organic production."  We have no doubt that once Skall is done interpreting the EU adjustments, wild harvest seaweed products will no longer be allowed to abuse the EU Organic certificate. After all, the operating words in the quote above is not "animals" but "hunting" and "wild."

What about allergens?

Our process is a 100% organic. We cultivate and process the seaweed without using anything else than salt water. No manure, and also no pesticides. This means that here and there, a baby shrim or tiny barnacle can be hidden in the seaweed after we are done drying and packaging. Traces of these can be present in our end products as a result. Adhering to EU legislation, we mention on all packaging that our products may contain traces of shell fish. If you find seaweed products from other sources that don't mention this warning, please don't assume they are allergene free until you check with the manufacturer. Our research shows that this can mean they forget to list it on the labels.

more about Zeewaar

What gave you the idea to start a seaweedfarm?

We, Rebecca and Jennifer, heard the term "seaweed farm" on the radio in 2012. This immediately peaked out interest. Both born and raised in small coastal communities, we immediately had a visual of what this would look like. We did some initial research and found that seaweed was gaining interest as a new food concept in countries outside Asia. And the Netherlands has the Eastern Scheldt, one of the cleanest natural sea parks in Europe. We saw a clear opportunity, and did a real deep dive into the concept of sustainable seaweed farming. The result of this was that we gained a firm grip on the beautiful combination of producing a healthy food ingredient while helping the sea to regain its balance. Good for People and Planet.

How did you finance Zeewaar?

We used our own capital, a small loan, and a subsidy from the Province of Zeeland to get started. In the years after that, we added investors/shareholders that share our vision and mission. By starting on a test scale, we were in a position to learn the trade of seaweed farming first hand. This made it possible for us to make the right investment at the right time. In the coming years, Zeewaar will continue to invest in sustainable seaweed farming to deliver on the growing demand for premium, sustainable seaweed for food purposes.

What are your backgrounds?

Jennifer Breaton was born on Long Island (NY) in the US where she also completed her college degree. She moved to the Big Apple and managed celebrity restaurant Orso in mid town. After a few years, she went to study Law and worked as an attorney in NYC. She likes travel and adventures, so she came to Amsterdam for an LLM at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in International & European Trade & Investment Law. One of the courses there was about Sustainability, and this is what set her on the path toward Zeewaar.

Rebecca Wiering was raised in Bergen (NH) and studied Communications in Amsterdam. Her first job at Saatchi & Saatchi brought her to NYC, where she stayed for 6 years working in the field of marketing. After she came back to Amsterdam, she worked at Philips International and Heineken International (among others) before starting Zeewaar with Jennifer.

Are you the 1st seaweedfarm in the NL?

On the 4th of July 2013, Zeewaar launched the first fully operational seaweed farm in the Netherlands. As of that very date, the company cutlivated seaweed, processed seaweed, marketed seaweed, and sold seaweed to customers. Indeed, that made us that first, and this milestone is something we will always be proud of.

How much do you produce per year?

Seaweed cultivation is new to Europe, and we think that is why there are some confusing metrics floating around. For open water seaweed farming, the amount of seaweed rope is most relevant. Each farmer knows per type how many kg yield per meter rope he is after. For other set ups, like land based tanks or ponds in which seaweed is cultivated, the amount of m3 is more relevant. Then there is a big difference between dry and wet weight. Information about our exact yields per type is still confidential, but we can share this: we cultivate many tonnes (= thousands of kilo's) of wet weight and this will further increase in the coming years.

Does Zeewaar work with students?

Yes we work in several ways with Students: either through the teachers/school management, or we work with interns that are looking for a place to learn during a period of minimum 8 weeks to maximum 6 months.

Does Zeewaar work with research institutes?

Zeewaar works/worked with NIOZ and WUR institutes, and is also in contact or collaboration with TNO, Deltares, Marin, Imares and ECN. Any scientific institute that focuses on a questions relating to the sustainable cultivation of seaweed from EU origin has our attention.

Does Zeewaar have a cultivation permit?

Yes. In 2013 we obtained the permit through Rijkswaterstaat / Ministery of Economic Affairs to cultivate endemic seaweed species in the Jacobahaven of the Eastern Scheldt. This permit is valid without an end date.

Does Zeewaar organize guided tours?

Thanks for your interest in our misson! We are unfortunately not yet set up as a company to host guided tours. We make exceptions for business customers and press of course, but please keep in mind that tours are only possible between April and October. We will start guided tours in the future, as they are a lot of fun to do, and they are somehow very popular. So please don't give up!

more about sustainable cultivation

Which types does Zeewaar cultivate

We sustainably cultivate seaweed types that fit the following criteria:

  • endemic species
  • species with an existing protocol to develop the hatchlings (start material, aka baby seaweed)
  • species that grow in sufficient volumes so that they fit feasibility criteria
  • species that lend themselves for food purposes (taste is key!)

We have found that different locations in Europe lend themselves for cultivating different types of seaweed. Warm climates versus cold climates have a big impact on what species are happy in per location. Simply the fact that a certain species is seen in a specific location, and even if that species is listed as endemic to that area does not mean that it can be cultivated sucessfully there. Our findings show that for the European food market, a number of different species are interesting: Royal Kombu, Sea Lettuce, Atlantic Wakame, and certain red seaweed types. This list will grow of course.

Do you harvest all the time?

Thank God we don't! No farmer has full year harvests, not when working with nature. Seaweed is therefore a seasonal profession. We plant and then we harvest after it has grown. In every location in Europe you will find different seaweeds in every season. We call them summer seaweeds or winter seaweeds, to emphasize the time it grows in. For example, Royal Kombu grows over the winter. It loves cold water. The colder the better. It is harvested in the spring and summer in Europe. And we call it a "winter seaweed." The more types of seaweed you can grown in a seaweed farm, the more time your spend on harvesting.

Are you the only sustainable cultivators in the world?

No, luckily, we aren't! Over the past few years, other small scale initiatives were launched behind sustainable seaweed farming. This is taking place in North America and Europe. The ones that survived were all set up on a small test surface. We all share similar experiences, and are in touch with each other to exchange tips and support.

Do you cultivate for other purposes than food?

Our experiences, and those of our colleagues, show that the investments required to set up this new field in the EU don't allow for low commodity pricing. Low prices are paid for concepts behind fuel, energy, animal feed, manure, plastics, building insolation, etc. Seaweed is tasty and very rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins and other health boosting compounds, which makes it perfect for the food category. As a premium food, cultivated seaweed commands prices that allow further investment into this new trade, and this has helped us develop the business model that works. But in the future, sustainably cultivated EU seaweed can be used for other applications as well. As oon as lower grade seaweed can be cultivated against lower costs, and prices can be brought down in general.

What is the difference between European seaweeds on the market?

Seaweed from the EU is not easily found in stores in Europe. When you do see it, you might notice that it is all the result of wild harvesting practices. Typically, there is limited information available as to its exact origins. Beware, as they may taste fishy, which is most often a direct result of the wild harvesting practice. Which is not to say that all seaweeds taste fishy. In fact, sustainably cultivated seaweed does not taste fishy.

Is Zeewaar involved in the experiments on the North Sea?

Up until now, there is no seaweed farm active on the North Sea. There are  some experiments from time to time, but you can't purchase seaweed grown in the North Sea. Zeewaar knows a number of the companies that were involved in these experiments over the past years. Their experiences point out that the challenges have proven too great to go a phase further than experimenting.

Not only is the North Sea extremely rough (Boyan Slat from Ocean Clean Up picked the North Sea for that very reason to test the robustness of his installation), with waves up to 9 meters high, it is the roughest during the seasons that the work needs to be done in a seaweed farm. To make matters more complicated, the North Sea is not nearly as clean as the the Eastern Scheldt is, where Zeewaar has its farm. So the rough conditions make any seaweed farm there more expensive to operate than where ours is, while at the same time, the quality of the seaweed is lower. That makes for more expensive seaweed of a lower quality.

Zeewaar will be interested in the North sea as soon as these fundamental dilemma's have been solved. Until that time, we continue our work in building the sustainable seaweed production chain in the Netherlands from our farm in the Eastern Scheldt. Not only do we develop the innovative farming practices, but also the processing, the packaging techniques, product development, and marketing programs to build awareness. Next to expertise in permit applications and our work with schools and universities.

more about global production

In what way is wild harvest damaging?

Because wild harvesting too often leads to over harvesting. Especially in countries without Government supervision, which is the vast majority of countries in the EU. Ireland's coast is the latest victim of a little hype created around 1 type of seaweed. The people behind it have not figured out how to go about it in a sustainable manner. The business plan is flawed. Next year, they might be gone, and another little company will have another seaweed idea. Do we let them do the damage and disappear without being held acccountable, once they've destroyed that piece of coast, and that type of seaweed there?

 

Seaweed is to the sea what trees are on land. IT IS NOT A LIMITLESS RESOURCE ! And the people cutting it away do not know what is "safe to remove." They may say they do, but they do not base that on scientific data. Species are disappearing as a result. The balance in the sea is threatened by removing millions of kilo's of natural seaweed beds. In the EU, we're talking about an FAO tracked amount of  almost 300 million kilo's, and this is growing every year with 10%. That means that in just a few years, we'll reach levels that Chili was dealing with..

 

And Chili is the good news! In 2016, the Government there banned the practice of wild harvesting in it's entirety, to stimulate investment of time and money into the much more responsible practice of sustainable seaweed cultivation. In Chili, thousands of one-man wild harvesters made for an entire seaweed industry, that stripped the coast continually. The damage became so seriious that the Government had to stop it. Not modify, or inpose quota's since they knew nothing of that would have worked. Chili had to ban wild harvesting to safe its sea. This article quotes the scientists that were part of this development. http://www.mo.be./nieuws/zeewier-booming-business-chili

 

Zeewaar calls for all EU governments of countries with coastal zones, to investigate seaweed wild harvesting practices, to inplement monitoring practices, and to start protecting their seas against this irresponsible practice that destroys our seas and oceans.

 

And Zeewaar invites any and all enterpreneurs who seriously want to invest time and money into setting up sustainable seaweed farms in their regions - to contact us at info@zeewaar.nl

more about seaweed

Are there any poisonous types of seaweed?

There are thousands of sub spieces in the macro algae families, divided by Green, Red, and Brown algae. So far, no evidence has ever been found that any of these are poisonous. In other words, as far as scientists know today, all salt water macro algae species are safe to eat. Now, whether they are tasty, is an entirely different matter! There is a reason that wold wide, only a small number of seaweed types are cultivated or harvested for consumption. In Asia, they developed the cultivation practices for the types that were the most popular, when the wild harvest quantities were no longer enough to satisfy demand. This was in the 1960's. One of the most popular types for food purposes in Asia, is the Asian version of our Royal Kombu (Saccharina latissima).

 

On the other hand, micro algae does have types that can be poisonous and are not suitable for consumption.

 

 

Is seaweed from Asia healthy?

The truth is, very few people know for sure. We have spoken to many big and small food producers in Europe, and what they have in common is this:

When interested in doing something with seaweed, and looking into sourcing, they lab test the sampels they receive. They all told us, that their lab tests showed dangerously high levels of heavy metals in seaweeds they received from Asia. These levels exceed the maximums set by the EU for food.

We don't know exactly what is going on with Fukushima, but we do know that Japan is still producing seaweed, as close as a 100 km from that nuclear plant that leaked (or is leaking?) radioactive water into the sea.

World wide, China is the biggest seaweed producer and as such the world needs information (ideally full disclosure) on practices there to find out what happens on these mass scale seaweed plantations out at sea. But so far, China does not provide accces or information.

I am told I eat it every day. So why am I not super healthy?

True, you eat it every day without being aware of it. That is because an FAO estimated 60% of all seaweed worldwide, goes to factories that turn it into the so called "hydrocolloids." The stuff that stiffens the pudding and your toothpaste. But also the stuff that binds together the milk and the chocolate in chocolate milk so they don't separate inside the pack. Red and Brown seaweeds have compounds in them that are used for these purposes. That, in fact, is the biggest part of the seaweed business globally.

 

Unfortunately, only 20-30% of the fresh seaweed going into those factories, ends up being used. The rest, the vast majority, is waste. Also, in the process to take that functional compound out of the seaweed, all color, taste, and health benefits are destroyed. That's why you won't notice anything when you eat buckets of ice cream :-)

 

 

What about heavy metals?

Indeed, something to pay attention to. Many water bodies, near for example industry or simply next to non-biological farms can contain high levels of heavy metals. The exact levels and danger depends in part on the inflow of clean(er) seawater. Seaweed takes in almost everything from its surroundings. Such as calcium, iodine, iron, manganese, potassium. But that also applies to heavy metals. Which is why two things are important for the location of a seaweed farm:

1) focus on clean water areas, such as Natura 2000 areas and/or areas where the shell fish industry is active. Most shell fish filter the water and take in pollutants if those are present. Therefore, you won't see these businesses in the EU in areas that contain too much pollution in general. But be careful with countries outside the EU.

2) have the seaweed tested by an idependent laboratory.  Zeewaar always makes sure that all levels are well within EU limits.

 

Back to you: when buying seaweed, you do want to be able to verify where it comes from.

Zeewaar The first seaweed farm in The Netherlands