Robert Napoli is the CFO of Cascadia Seaweed, a macroalgae cultivation company based in British Columbia.
As the largest kelp cultivator in Canada, Cascadia currently operates 7 ocean farms across 26 hectares of ocean.
And in this snippet from our recent call, Rob and I discuss the evolution of the organisation, ecosystem services, and the team’s fundraising efforts.
How has Cascadia Seaweed evolved to where it is now?
It all started in 2019, when our founders began working with Coastal First Nations. Over the years, these communities have suffered immensely from natural resource depletion. And seaweed cultivation was seen as a potential solution.
Soon after these initial discussions, we put some farms in the water. And now, 3 years later, we operate 100 kilometres of production line across 7 farms – growing sugar kelp and giant kelp.
When it comes to markets, we’re primarily developing feed additives and biostimulants for agriculture. These categories have been around for decades, but pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fertiliser-use in industry is driving increasing demand.
What’s more, livestock farmers have seen how seaweed can improve feed conversion and growth rates. This means they can reduce the feed input per unit output. And that’s a compelling driver – not to mention the fact that our products have shown some methane reduction capabilities too.
How much is Cascadia fundraising?
We’re raising $15 million Canadian dollars to help us with expansion, bioprocessing and product development. This capital will be deployed over the next 2.5 years and will help us get to 5x capacity – circa 4000 MT fresh weight per annum. And to hit that target, we’ll need about 100 hectares of ocean, which our First Nation partners are eager to provide.
Eventually, we would like to farm 50,000 hectares in British Columbia, which will make us a major player in North America and help us significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.
What have Cascadia been doing on the ecosystem services front?
After a short while, we noticed the positive impact our farms were having on the environment. For example, local loggers mentioned the abundance of wild seaweed and fish around our farms. They even saw bears moving back into the area. And this encouraged us to launch an ecosystem services side of the business.
In this regard, we’ve since embarked on some research to develop Green Gravel – a technology that can be used to reforest kelp beds. And our engineers have now developed ‘kelp cams’ – underwater cameras which use artificial intelligence to identify fish species and monitor biodiversity.
What advice would you give to someone else starting on this journey?
Raise more money than you thought you needed. Inflation has really increased costs this year. So, I’d recommend that you are conservative on that front!