Fireside Chat: Sea Green and The Seaweedman

A fireside chat with Toine Wilke, the founder of Sea Green

Toine Wilke, a molecular biologist with a passion for seaweed is often referred to as ‘The Seaweedman’. He has earned this nickname due to his mission; bringing seaweed from the ocean to your plate. Toine is the creator of the seaweed company Sea Green. In this edited conversation with Peter Green, Toine spoke about Sea Green and his thoughts on the future of the seaweed industry.

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Toine Wilke (credit The Seaweedman)

What motivated you to explore the seaweed industry?

I noticed that our food system was unsustainable for the planet and our bodies. I felt like we could do so much better and one of the easiest ways to correct these things is to start eating seaweed.

Making seaweed a part of the diet could contribute to a healthier world and I find that motivating. One of the hardest parts of this mission is to make it attractive enough for ordinary people to actually try it. To make that first step is very difficult.

What have been some of the challenges?

Getting people to try it in the right way has been a challenge. So has getting people to learn to appreciate seaweed.

We started Sea Green with seaweed burgers which was great. However, what I’ve come to know over the last half year is that we are not solving a real problem with a healthy seaweed burger. We didn’t have a problem-solution fit.

The Sea Green fish burgers are selling a lot better because people understand that fish is healthy, seaweed is healthy and both come from the sea. That’s more of a problem-solution fit.

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Toine Wilke at TEDx(credit The Seaweedman)

What’s your perspective on the future of seaweed?

We’re still in Kindergarten – and that’s what people told me five years ago! I think in the European food industry we want to use and develop two already existing seaweed products; Nori sheets, and Wakame. If we don’t commit to doing seaweed in Europe, the industry will remain small. That’s partly due to the government playing such a big role in giving out grants; they are effectively in charge of who gets the money and who doesn’t.

In order to grow in Europe, we should definitely learn from Asia and get all the expertise from there.

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Kelp Forests (credit National Geographic)

What’s next for Sea Green?

We’re going to do a new crowdfunding campaign in September for some new products. We are using four different seaweeds in a new product release aimed to address problems relating to availability, how to use seaweed, why use seaweed and user-friendliness.

What advice might you give to your younger self or someone else early on in their entrepreneurial path?

Be sure about what problem you are actually solving. Make sure there’s a fit between the problems you actually notice and the solutions that are out there.

Any books you might recommend?

I recently read the book “Eat Like A Fish” by Bren Smith which I really enjoyed.

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Toine Wilke’s site

Interviewer: Peter Green

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