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Why Isn’t Kelp Catching On?

In the past year and a half, Ms. Warner said, Atlantic Sea Farms has been able to scale up production of kelp to a million pounds from 30,000 pounds. “And so when I hear things like, ‘Oh, the seaweed industry is not growing,’ I’m like, ‘Oh, really?” she said. Some of the company’s high-profile partnerships include Daily Harvest and Sweetgreen.

Markos Scheer, 52, the C.E.O. of Seagrove Kelp Co., plans to expand his Alaska kelp farm “as rapidly as the market will allow,” and currently has 700 acres of property in the application phase awaiting permitting, in addition to the 127 acres that are already fully operational.

“Everybody put the horse before the cart,” said Casey Emmett, 36, the C.E.O. of the Crop Project, a company that buys seaweed from farmers and then dries and mills it so that it can be used to make food, fertilizer and biomaterials, like plastic.

This year, he said, the Crop Project, in conjunction with GreenWave, was able to harvest 5,000 pounds of kelp during the peak months of the pandemic, which they dried in a tobacco barn.

Before the pandemic, Mr. Smith, of GreenWave, said that the intention had been to process the kelp in commercial kitchens. “We didn’t feel comfortable processing in close quarters,” he said. Instead, Mr. Smith found that Connecticut had almost 100 empty tobacco barns: “I never let a crisis go to waste.”

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