Mara Seaweed, a social impact company, which takes sustainably harvested seaweed from the coastline of Fife to produce and sell seaweed products, has plans to expand.
Founded in 2011, it has won multiple awards for innovation and product development and has pioneered the development of the seaweed supply chain in Scotland.
It turns relatively low-cost raw seaweed into high-value food products both for the UK market and for export-led growth. Seaweed is locally harvested under Crown Estate license in Fife, and then further processed (dried, milled, blended and packed) into a range of ingredients, seasonings and condiments for the retail, food service and food manufacturers. In 2019, the company was selected for the elite Tesco brand incubator programme and is in distribution nationwide in over 550 stores.
In addition to its health benefits, seaweed plays an important role in removing and storing CO2 from the atmosphere and grows at a much faster rate than land plants. Whilst more research is needed, seaweed could offer a significant solution to climate change in the near future.
Mara Seaweed recently made the strategic decision to raise finance and scale-up its business, as it seeks to maximise opportunities from the increased popularity of high-quality seaweed. Seaweed is considered a sustainable high-nutrition food source with a host of health benefits that also has a positive impact on the atmosphere, taking up significant quantities of carbon dioxide every year.
Mara Seaweed plans to invest in a seaweed farming hub in Glenrothes, which will include a new farming and process facility, and will allow Mara Seaweed to expand its production capacity. Simultaneously, it plans to explore new markets and increase its footprint in the global marketplace, as well as create green jobs.
In October 2021, Mara Seaweed announced it had been awarded Scottish Government funding of more than £600,000 to trigger its expansion plans. The grant was awarded through Marine Fund Scotland.
Through a collaborative approach, Fife Council Economic Development, under the banner of InvestFife, and Business Gateway Fife have been supporting the business with its expansion plans over the last year.
Help and advice has been offered by Fife Council Economic Development in relation to its plans to relocate and expand its seaweed harvesting/farming and supply chain, helping them to identify sites, as well as provide additional support from its Trade Development Programme. Funding has been made available for Mara Seaweed to virtually attend Bread & Jam Festival 2020 and Tay Cities Food and Drink Expo in May 2021.
InvestFife also supported its Marine Fund Scotland application, whilst Business Gateway Fife identified funding streams including the Rapid Response Fund. A Digital Boost grant has enabled the business to enhance its online presence to support the exploration of new markets and its desire to increase its global marketplace footprint.
Business Gateway Fife Growth Team Adviser, Samir Rhazali, also introduced the company to the Financial Readiness Service Team at Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Enterprise opportunity Management Pilot, Skills Development Scotland to help with the upskilling of Mara Seaweed’s workforce, as well as a new strategic partnership for collaboration in research and development in setting up seaweed farms.
“It made sense for Mara to locate in Fife for a number of reasons: we have been operating our harvesting here since we first started, but it will be great to get our scaled-up processing facility closer to the source of our raw material. The East Neuk, where I live, is the source of my inspiration for starting Mara in the first place.
“From a business perspective, we have so far, been enjoying the integrated support not only from Fife Council and Business Gateway Fife, but from the business network in Fife, in particular the Chamber of Commerce. Our new location in Glenrothes is equidistant both from both coasts of the East Neuk and has great communication links. We look forward to growing our business in Fife.”
Fiona Houston, CEO at Mara Seaweed
This team approach by Fife Council Economic Development and Business Gateway Fife has enabled Mara Seaweed to utilise a range of services and seek advice from various members of the team; all of which has culminated to strengthen the business’ expansion plans.