The pioneering seaweed farmers

Like most young men in Scarborough have done for generations, Wave Crookes left school and started fishing the following day. In time he joined the Royal Navy and spent eleven years there before going into the deep sea diving industry. He then headed for Scotland as operations manager for the RNLI. “I was navigating and chief officer on various ships doing the British Antarctic Survey and that’s where I met Laura, who was chief scientist on an expedition.” They put their heads together and came up with the plan to create the UK’s first offshore seaweed farm, SeaGrown.

“The term superfood gets thrown around a lot, but seaweed really is one – it’s full of vitamins, minerals, iron and protein. It also grows very quickly and is 100% organic” says Wave. A lot of red tape had to be waded through before they got their licence from Natural England to harvest it. “We had to get permission from the landowners up and down the coast. To begin with we were literally harvesting seaweed with a pair of kitchen scissors.”

Hand holding out brown seaweed to show detail by Ceri OakesCupped hands holding green seaweed by Ceri OakesMan holding seaweed in shallow sea water by Ceri Oakes

They use the seaweed to make bath soak and food seasoning – and with a grant from the Coastal Communities fund, they can now start to harvest on an industrial level. “We’ve acquired the rights to 60 acres of water three miles off the coastline, where seaweed is growing on a series of ropes and buoys. It grows very quickly and it’s also a natural feedstock. Fed to cattle, there are studies which suggest that it reduces methane emissions.”

“Scarborough is a very good stretch of coast for seaweed” says Wave. “We can find pretty much all the different types on the Yorkshire Coast, but we’ve opted to farm three varieties of kelp – that’s the brown stuff you see just below the low tide mark.”

Using seaweed to add a flavour bomb to dishes is no longer just a chef’s trick - you can buy SeaGrown’s Sichuan Pepper Seasoning which is great with soups and sauces, and Smokey Piri-Piri works with chicken and seafood – it’s fiery and a little goes a long way! For hundreds of years minerals extracted from seaweed have been used to promote skin health, aid wellbeing and assist muscle relaxation; simply add to hot bath water or use as a foot soak. Two pots of seaweed seasoning by Ceri Oakes

The story of SeaGrown is told in a series of fabulous images at their boat Southern Star on Vincent Pier in Scarborough – and the on-board cafĂ© serves excellent coffee and homemade cake. It’s at atmospheric place to take the weight off your feet: in the evening, kick back on deck with a glass of something chilled – with panoramic views across the harbour and South Bay, there’s no better place to relax in good company and watch the sunset behind the town!


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