Acadian Seaplants A Changing Tide

first_imgIt might be one of the most ubiquitous of ocean resources, but it has never had a whole lot of respect in North America. Then again, ascophyllum nodosum — the same seaweed that litters beaches after a storm — hasn’t suffered from the same over-exploitation that has plagued the Atlantic groundfishery either. One Nova Scotia company is taking great pains to make sure it stays that way. Over the past 25 years, Acadian Seaplants Ltd. has become one of the largest producers of marine-plant materials in North America. Its five processing plants, which spread over three Maritime provinces, turn rockweed into value-added products such as fertilizers, agro-chemicals, animal-feed additives, and even a salad ingredient for the Japanese market. “We believe in doing what we’re doing in a sustainable manner,” says company president Jean Paul Deveau. “We’ve spent a lot of money studying the growth patterns of seaweed.” To make that possible, the company has a full-time scientist on staff who conducts long-term studies and publishes papers that are used by scientists and seaweed-harvesting countries around the world. “We’re very proud of the fact that we have the best-managed marine resource in Canada,” says Deveau. Acadian Seaplants is one of a new breed of Nova Scotia companies — those that realize their bottom line depends on coming to terms with the environment. More and more, the company is also changing the way it does business. In their 2002 book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, William McDonough and Michael Braungart lay out a blueprint for a new business paradigm — one in which nature and industry coexist. The philosophy is the opposite of the old “cradle-to-grave” paradigm, where products are used and then discarded when they wear out. In a cradle-to-cradle world, products may change form, but they will continue to be used forever in an endless loop. McDonough and Braungart argue that industry is at odds with the environment because design always has followed the easiest road, with little concern for anything beyond the usable lifetime of a product. In the future, say the authors, products will be used, recycled, and used again. In a cradle-to-cradle world, a factory doesn’t work like a machine gobbling up energy and spewing toxic-waste products into the environment, but more like a tree that fits into its surroundings organically. Acadian Seaplants could have provided a chapter in McDonough and Braungart’s book. Since its startup in 1981, it has managed its resource so well the seaweed biomass has remained completely stable, and the company’s 300 independent fishermen take less than the annual growth rate. Acadian Seaplants keeps track of the resource with regular on-the-water inspections and lays down strict guidelines, including conservative exploitation rates, which all company harvester-fishermen must follow. “Think of a beautiful lawn,” says Deveau. “If you mow it regularly, it will continue to grow and look beautiful, but if you cut it too close, you will kill it. It’s the same with harvesting seaweed.” Acadian Seaplants’ dedication to environmentally friendly practices is evident in other areas of operation as well. An innovative program turns surplus plastic barrels used in processing into municipal recycling containers. At one of the company’s facilities in Cornwallis, Annapolis Co., a waste stream has been converted into a soil amendment that is sold to local farmers. With annual sales of more than $20 million, Acadian Seaplants’ bottomline is quite secure. For more Nova Scotia success stories visit . -30-last_img

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