VitaminSea is receiving the Small Business Innovation Research grant as follow-up financing to the $100,000 it received last year to start developing a prototype, called SeaKelp+.
The second phase of financing will allow the Maine-based company to collaborate with bakeries to develop a recipe and conduct market testing.
Founded and co-owned by Tim Roth, VitaminSea harvests and processes wild and farmed seaweed for use in a variety of products, including energy bars, chocolate, sea vegetables like alaria, konbu and dulse, a seasoning mix and supplements for animals.
According to Roth, commercializing seaweed has the potential to provide the nutritional benefits of consuming seaweed to a large population.
“I’d like to see more people eating seaweed,” said Roth. “It’s such an underutilized plant.”
Harvesting of seaweed is a growing industry along Maine’s coast.
“Some of the most exciting things about Maine aquaculture right now are consumers’ growing awareness of seaweed’s nutritional benefits and the innovative products local businesses are making with it,” said Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, who supported the company’s application for the grant.
“VitaminSea’s efforts to develop a kelp-based bread additive has huge potential for growing not just their business, but the state’s seaweed aquaculture as a whole.”
The benefits of seaweed
Seaweed is synonymous with sushi, but also a well-known source of food hydrocolloids, such as agar, alginates and carrageenan. Its health benefits are also vast, among others:
- Rich in protein
- A good source of vitamins, specifically vitamin K and folic acid, and minerals, most prominently calcium, copper, iodine and iron
- Contains a variety of protective antioxidants
- High in fiber and polysaccharides that can support gut health
- Low in calories and fat
- Research suggests that seaweed could help weight loss. Alginate, a compound found in sea kelp, helps suppress the digestion of fat in the gut