Plans for Sidney to host a festival detailing the growing seaweed industry has principle support of council.
The festival proposed by Sidney-based company Seaweed Cascadia would take place May 13 to 21, 2021.
“We see an opportunity to share the long list of health and environmental benefits with our community, with our friends, with our neighbours, and that is why we want to bring this seaweed festival to the Saanich Peninsula,” said Erin Bremner-Mitchell, the company’s manager of communications and engagement, during a presentation to council’s committee meeting last month.
Bremner-Mitchell said the festival would serve as a professional development conference for the industry. “So we are not just growing a business, we are building a whole new sector,” she said.
While Bremner-Mitchell described the existing Canadian seaweed industry as a “boutique” industry, it has enormous potential with Seaweed Cascadia aiming to be the largest cultivator in North America.
Bremner-Mitchell said during her presentation the company could end up creating an estimated 3,000 jobs and $1 billion economic growth for coastal communities in British Columbia, as the company pursues what she called an “aggressive growth plan.”
The company said earlier this year that seaweed-based foods could appear on local shelves in the spring of 2021, if everything goes according to plan. Seaweed, specifically the sugar kelp the company grows in partnership with First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island, has a long tradition as a protein-rich food source.
While seaweed already appears in many household and food products, be it toothpaste, cosmetics or taco seasoning, Cascadia is also exploring other uses that align with the company’s environmental ethics.
The public heard during Bremner-Mitchell’s presentation that seaweed offers many environmental and economic benefits. They include the sequestration of climate-change inducing greenhouse gases and the creation of economic activity in helping to build resilient coastal communities for the benefit of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Founded in 2019, Cascadia Seaweed, along with the industry at large, has received some positive recognition in recent months and currently find itself in a rapid expansion phase.
“Our biggest challenge is actually meeting growing demand,” said Bremner-Mitchell.
“We do need governments like yourself and your provincial and federal counterparts to recognize the value that this industry brings. We see ourselves as conduits of funds to First Nations, to research institutions and coastal communities. We check all the boxes for a blue, new economy and recovery from this global pandemic.”
Members of council starting with Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith struck a supportive note in applauding the growth of the company.
“It’s refreshing, particularly during these COVID times to see a young company, just a year old, prospering with a great vision that includes things like Indigenous partnerships, green jobs (and) human health — these are all positive things.”
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