Omer Kamp from Arava Export Growers
“The problem is that the sea is a dirty place,” said Omer Kamp of Arava Export Growers. “When you take something from the ocean, you get residue and pollution from boats, factories and everything that's dumped in the ocean. That all gets absorbed by seaweed.” Arava has secured propriety technology that takes water from deep in the Mediterranean and cleans it for use in growing seaweed. The water is held in a series of pools where growing and harvesting of seaweed is closely monitored.
“We grow our own species of seaweed, and we know what the father was and what the mother was and when it started,” said Omer. “It's a very sophisticated system that you cannot find elsewhere.” The advantage of clean water can also apply to raising fish for sale, and it's something Omer said they will trial next year. But for now, they're focusing on three market segments for seaweed.
“We're focusing on fresh retail, fresh industry and fresh food service,” said Omer. “We want to educate people on how to use it. That's done by getting chefs to go on television to show recipes using seaweed. But we also are marketing it as something that can be used by food processors.” One example of this is the inclusion of seaweed in a frittelle. By itself, a frittelle is just fried dough, but one of Arava Export's customers puts seaweed inside the frittelle and then the product can be marketed as having a good mix of vitamins and nutrients.
“The health benefits of seaweed make the potential for this unbelievable,” said Omer. “It has such a variety of nutrients that you can't find anywhere else.” He points to the growth of the pomegranate category when its health benefits became well-known as a direction the seaweed market could take. The protein and B12 vitamin that it offers also makes it a good fit for vegetarians and vegans who want those things that can be hard to get without meat. Once people know how to use it, consumption will go up and more retailers will stock the item. When that wave of popularity starts to crest, Omer believes his company will be well-poised to take advantage of the growing market for seaweed.
“We can grow this the entire year and have up to 10 harvests because we use water from the Mediterranean,” said Omer. “You can't grow this in Europe during all of the year. We can provide the same product with the same quality at any point during the year.” Because the seaweed is so clean, Omer added that they can charge premium prices. Once the item is stocked and treated much like a fresh herb, which is the item it most resembles, the next step would be to find growing partners around the world that can shorten travel times by growing the seaweed closer to large markes, like Japan or the United States.
“There isn't enough food or protein to feed all of the world's population,” said Omer. “The sea is not yet considered a large source of food, but we think it can be a main source of it. This is the future of food, and we will help to make sure there's enough for everybody.”
"During this year's fruit logistica, we plan to hire and employ a professional Chef to our stand. He'll show ways on implementing seaweeds in various dishes. This is the major obstacle, the lack of knowledge people have with this line. The Chef therefore would offer a great opportunity to tackle this obstacle at the Fruit Logistica.