Ocean Approved
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Name:             Ocean Approved

Address:         Tollef Olson and Paul Dobbins

                        Ocean Approved

                        188 Presumscott Street

                        Portland, Maine  04103

Phone:             207-409-6485

Website:          www.oceanapproved.com

Email:             pdobbins@oceanapproved.com

Products and Services:

-fresh frozen ready-to-serve kelp products

-Wholesale to restaurants, stores, food service


What Makes Ocean Approved Unique?

The commercial farming of seaweed in the ocean has a rich history throughout the world.  Well-established seaweed farms have flourished throughout Asia and Europe for centuries. Seaweed farms are located in the neighboring countries of Canada and Mexico.  The United States had literally and figuratively “missed the boat” in regard to cultivating seaweed in the open ocean until Tollef Olson founded Ocean Approved in Portland, Maine, in 2006.

Ocean Approved is the very first company to commercially raise kelp in open water farms in the United States. Paul Dobbins came on board as a partner in the company in 2009. Ocean Approved now holds permits from the Maine Department of Marine Resources for four open water kelp farms in Maine.  Three are located in Casco Bay and the fourth is situated in the Blue Hill Salt Pond.

Unique Maine Farms was first introduced to the work of Ocean Approved when a group of teachers participating in the Maine Agriculture in the Classroom course visited their nursery at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in July of 2012.  Paul Dobbins was gracious to welcome Unique Maine Farms for an excursion out on the water to the kelp farms in June of 2013. He was going out to gather some late-harvest kelp to be used to show attendees at the World Oceans Day at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

Kelp is valued as an exceptional source of fiber.  It contains significant amounts of minerals. Potassium, iron, iodine, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and copper are all found in kelp.  It produces more calcium than milk; more iron than spinach; and more fiber than brown rice. Its iodine is regarded as a cancer preventative. A source of antioxidants, it provides vitamins and protective pigments.

Kelp is a plant which thrives in low light and during the winter in Maine waters.  Because micro algae flourishes in warm water, it is not competing with the kelp during the cold months of November through March. When so much marine life seems dormant during the winter in Maine, kelp enjoys a radical growth rate.

Tollef and Paul realized that, from an environmentally-responsible perspective, it would be necessary to raise kelp commercially. Ocean Approved received NOAA Small Business Innovative Research Phase I and Phase II grants to develop farm technologies that would be successful in New England waters. Partnering with the University of Connecticut, the team developed technologies for creating, “Seed,” and farm designs uniquely suited to the Maine environment.

Mature kelp is harvested and the spores are extracted.  The nursery that Olson and Dobbins founded is located in the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland.  It is in operation from the middle of September to the beginning of December.  A litre of water in the nursery can contain 9.6 billion spores.  The sporophytes that are produced in the nursery develop in a relatively short period of time. Within a month, they are attached to thousands of feet of long line in Ocean Approved’s sea farm locations.

Tolleff and Paul keep busy monitoring various components of the sea farms.  They evaluate nutrient shading issues, nitrogen and temperature levels in the water column,  and take measurements and weights of the kelp to determine growth rate. They strive to be environmentally conscious.  Some wild harvesting of seaweed still takes place, but their goal is to phase that out.

The kelp which Ocean Approved raises is cut, blanched, rinsed, and frozen immediately after it is harvested from the ocean.  Paul Dobbins explained that the kelp is not dried so that its flavor remains mild and sweeter with a preferred texture and vibrant green color.

Nine kelp products are presently sold by Ocean Approved on a wholesale level.  There are plans to expand the varieties of kelps that are grown and to eventually consider offering the kelps on a retail level. All of the kelps are cooked al dente.  They are frozen and they retain a bright green color.  When they are defrosted they are ready to be consumed.

The Ocean Approved Kelp Slaw Cut is produced from Digitata laminaria, which goes by the common name of “Horse tail.” It is a crunchy and mild green vegetable.  Ocean Approved Kelp Salad Cut is produced from Alaria esculenta, whose common name is “winged kelp.” It has a slight walnut taste and it is known as the “North Atlantic’s Wakame.”  The Ocean Approved Kelp Noodle Cut is produced from Saccharina latissma or “Sugar kelp.”  It has a mild green bean flavor.

Kelp is used in soups, salads, desserts, main dishes, and wraps.  It goes well with sushi, tofu, vegetable stews, and stir-fries.  On their website (www.oceanapproved.com) Ocean Approved shares recipes for Mussels over Kelp Noodles, Vegetarian Kelp Noodle Soup, Piccalilli/Kelpalilly, Wakame and Shrimp Scrambled Eggs, Artichoke Stuffed with Crab and Kelp, Baby Sugar Kelp Wraps, Dilly Kelp Pickles, and Local Maine Kelp, Salmon, and Tomato Salad.  Several kelp enthusiasts have shared their creative kelp recipes and photos on the Ocean Approved’s  Facebook page.

There are many other functions for kelp including use as a fertilizer.  Ocean Approved provides its seaweed scraps to several local farmers for use as a fertilizer.  Some farmers use seaweed as a supplemental feed for their animals.  It functions in some locales as nutritional supplements and is viewed as a resource in fighting tumors, viruses, obesity, and diseases. Paul Dobbins explained that there are individuals who are interested in the use of kelp as a biofuel product.

The Ocean Approved seaweed farms operate on a seasonal basis. The kelp seed is planted in late fall and harvested in early spring.  Twenty-four individuals are employed by Ocean Approved who help with the processing, nursery work in the fall, and the sales and distribution. During the spring, the seaweed needs to be harvested and processed.  In the summer, attention needs to be directed towards sales and the repairing of the gear.

Tollef and Paul are very proud of their commitment to the environment.  Their company practices do not rely on arable land, fertilizers, or fresh water.  Paul explained that kelp absorbs nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and phosphorus and helps remove excess nutrients in the water column.  In addition, sea farms  provide shade and habitats for many marine organisms.

A strong sense of collaboration and a willingness to share their findings are part of

Ocean Approved’s business plan.  They have received funding from NOAA of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Maine Technology Institute.  They have also partnered with the University of Connecticut.  Other supporters have included Kennebec River Bio Sciences, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., the Bigelow Laboratory, the University of Maine, and the Maine Department of Marine Resources.  Ocean Approved is also closely following the work of the University of New Hampshire in their research of seaweed that is cultivated to make nori, the seaweed wrapper used for sushi.

Although the United States was late on the scene in regard to seaweed farms, the work of

Ocean Approved is drawing international attention.  Visitors from Japan, Korea, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and Ireland have observed their kelp operations.  Paul will be making his second trip to Rathlin Island off the coast of Northern Ireland to assist a young lobsterman who is interested in beginning a commercial kelp operation.  Tollef Olson and Paul Dobbins have put Portland, Maine, on the map from a global perspective.  In a state with such an abundance of ocean frontage, it is exciting to observe the innovative and successful farming of the sea that is taking place in Maine thanks to the efforts of Ocean Approved.

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Trip to the Farms-6/7/13Ocean_Approved_-_Trip_on_Water.html

Tollef Olson founded Ocean Approved in 2006.

(Photo courtesy of Ocean Approved’s Facebook page.)

Paul Dobbins joined Ocean Approved in 2009.

Paul Dobbins shared information about a rather large seaweed specimen with the teachers in the Maine Agriculture in the Classroom course in July 2012.

Paul Dobbins gives a tour of the nursery to the teachers in the Maine Agriculture in the Classroom course.