A Renewable Ocean Harvest
Acadian Seaplants Limited
April 08, 2009— Halifax, Nova Scotia
The President of Acadian Seaplants, Jean-Paul Deveau (left), was mentored by father, Louis.
Seaweed washes ashore on coastlines around the world, but savvy observers know these plants to be an environmentally sustainable resource rather than marine cast-offs. On Canada's Atlantic coast, Acadian Seaplants Limited (ASL) has led the way in turning this basic commodity into value-added and diverse products that are exported around the world.
Founded in the early 1980s, the company has developed its own techniques for cultivating seaweed in land-based tanks. Such an accomplishment had stymied seaweed processors elsewhere, but it is typical of ASL's ability to meet challenges. The resulting cultivation methods yield plants of consistently high quality, which are processed into food. Wild harvest species of seaweed are processed into products for fertilizer, biochemical and agricultural markets as well as products for health, beauty and brewery industries.
This year the firm expects to do $30 million worth of business in some 70 countries, following years' worth of international marketing efforts that have included market studies and hundreds of field trials around the globe. Headquartered in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, ASL now has three manufacturing facilities in that province, one in Prince Edward Island, and one in New Brunswick, altogether employing upward of 500 people in 9 countries.
Research and development has played a prominent role in this success, with as much as 10 per cent of annual revenues going into these activities. Along the way ASL has established dynamic partnerships with organizations such as the National Research Council's Institute for Marine Biosciences in Halifax, Dalhousie University, the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, and the Nova Scotia Research Foundation, which has since become InNOVAcorp.
ASL worked closely with Dr. James Craigie and the National Research Council, Canada's foremost research and development agency, on the creation of leading-edge technologies and products. When the company wanted to begin working on the next generation of edible seaweed species, it turned to the Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP). An agency of the NRC, IRAP works closely with small and medium-sized enterprises, helping them grow their businesses, increase their competitiveness, and enhance their impact in the marketplace.
This focus on technology transfer and commercialization earned the company a Canadian Innovation Award from Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters in 2001, the country's leading business network. As ASL President Jean-Paul Deveau points out, it is this perspective that has laid the foundation for the company's many achievements.
"It's the commercialization of science that has given Acadian Seaplants its sustainable competitive advantage in global export markets," he says, adding that this kind of initiative calls for much more than just investing money. "The knack for knowing when to make the leap, to know you have done your science and need to move it into production, has enabled ASL to successfully introduce superior marine plant-based products and to sustain its coveted leadership position."
Moreover, he credits both NRC-IMB and NRC-IRAP as partners in the company's progress.
"Over the past 30 plus years, the National Research Council has supported Acadian Seaplants not only in the development of innovative technologies and products, but also with commercialization," says Deveau. "Without the ongoing support of the NRC during the commercialization stage, it would have been very difficult for the company to be where it is today."
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