International Women's Day: the Women of Seaweed
Image Source: Nordic Oceanfruit
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women globally. The 12 Tides Team wants to recognize five inspiring women from around the world whose work is having a huge impact in the seaweed industry. These women help spread awareness on the environmental, economic, and health benefits of seaweed. We hope you are inspired by these women as we are while you read about how they fell in love with seaweed, their future goals to conserve our kelp forests, and the powerful advice they have for women.
Sarah Redmond is the founder and owner of Springtide Seaweed, where we source our kelp! Springtide Seaweed is the largest organic seaweed farm in North America. By the time Sarah was in high school and before there was much of a market for seaweed aquaculture, she knew her life’s purpose was to be a seaweed farmer. She wanted “a garden but on the ocean!” Growing up in Maine, Sarah discovered her passion from the location’s diverse species of seaweeds. After a dedicated career in the industry and expanding her knowledge around aquaculture, Sarah’s dream came true when she founded Springtide Seaweed.
As the only organically certified seaweed plant in the U.S., Sarah’s goal is to “lay the groundwork and share Springtides’ model to help others start their own seaweed farm.” Sarah is concerned about the future of the ocean and wants the industry to grow but in an organic way. Sarah says, “It’s really important we find new ways of growing food and supporting our natural systems. People want to see something different. Aquaculture gives us a chance to innovate and create new systems of technology.” This may be finding ways to become more engaged with nature, as we have become so separated, according to Sarah. As a community, we need to make major changes to preserve our oceans. For women wanting to make a difference in the world, Sarah’s advice is to, “figure out what it is what you're passionate about and find a way to do it.”
Emma McPherson, the Co-Director and one of the divers at Indian Ocean Sea Vegetables, joined the company because founders, Drew and Davis, “felt like they needed a woman's touch.” Emma provides a woman's perspective to help Indian Ocean Sea Vegetables, Western Australia’s first edible seaweed farm, thrive. Emma’s inspiration for seaweed originated from her childhood. She had always been drawn to growing her own food, which was influenced by her parents' plentiful veggie gardens and orchards in their backyard. Emma’s ties to the oceans -- from her love of ocean sports to sailing across the world -- fostered her passion for seaweed.
Seaweed’s nutritional and environmental benefits continue to inspire her. According to Emma, seaweed is crucial for one’s diet because it replenishes the trace elements, iodine, and magnesium most people are missing. For the environment, Emma says, “Seaweed filters water, absorbs carbon, and creates diverse habitats.” Not only does Emma want more people to eat seaweed, but it is important to her that “people are aware of where their food comes from, how it’s grown, and the care that goes into it.” Emma urges that we need to “inspire our own children that this is how we should eat food.” Indian Ocean Sea Vegetables incorporate these values through their sustainable regenerative ocean farming practices.
Emma is grateful to have had many fun outdoor jobs during her lifetime. She encourages others to do what they love. Emma iterates that, “Women are highly capable to do anything they want to. Women get together and support each other to create this beautiful network. Men do the same thing, but women have strong bonds as they work together.”
Image Source: Psychological Society of America
Josie Iselin, a woman of many skills, is an author, photographer, artist, and seaweed expert. Her obsession for seaweed sparked along her life journey of capturing images of the natural world. She found herself mesmerized by the vibrant, magenta hues of the seaweed along the Duxbury Reef’s shore in Bolinas, CA. Often overlooked, Josie was compelled to the, “many cool clues at our waters edge.” Cleverly, she illuminated these hidden organisms into prints for her own appreciation and to inspire others. Josie’s mission is to reveal the botanical world beneath the oceans and to allure admiration from others for these miraculous marine organisms.
Josie’s image-making efforts evolved from a passion for visual seaweed structure to deeper research, and finally to publishing multiple books on the physiology and natural history of seaweed. Her work connects artists, ocean lovers, and scientists to allow a mutual appreciation for the beauty of seaweed. Check out her newest book, The Curious World of Seaweed, to dive deep into the world of seaweed!
Josie quickly discovered the importance of seaweed, specifically kelp, a more specific subgroup of seaweed. In the words of Josie, “kelp are eco-engineers.” Kelp is the foundation for ecosystems and alters the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon. Unfortunately, Josie explained to me, “Instead of honoring our primary producers, like seaweed and kelp, they are very under-represented. There is no seaweed week like there is shark week.”
Josie hopes to change this phenomenon by encouraging others to find appreciation for marine life through her art, books, and word of mouth. She wants women to know they have, “the capacity for multiple talents.” Her advice is for everyone to, “experiment in different areas that you feel you can sustain over time and have a strong passion for. Find a way to connect with the world whether you are an organizer, artist, or scientist.”
Leslie Booher is the Co-Founder of Sunken Seaweed, California’s first regenerative ocean farm located in the San Diego Bay. Leslie and her partner, Torre Polizzi, both studied marine biology at Humboldt State University. While at college, Leslie took a class on phycology (the study of algae), which sparked her interest in seaweed. However, it wasn’t until she experienced her first SCUBA dive through kelp forests, that she became inspired by seaweed. In Leslie’s words, “It’s an unreal experience to be in the middle of a 40-foot tall seaweed jungle because you get this sense of flying as you glide through the giant stalks of kelp.”
The idea of Sunken Seaweed evolved when Leslie and Torre both noticed the drastic loss of kelp forests due to climate change. Leslie said they knew that they needed to restore these ecosystems and found seaweed farming to be the best way to achieve this. Sunken Seaweed’s regenerative ocean farm doesn’t only function to grow seafood. Leslie is working to “demonstrate that seaweed farming can be used for many different applications. Seaweed can function to feed cows, extract pollution, and create biofuel! I want to farm seaweed in a way that centers around ecosystem benefits and environmental ethics.” Leslie is trying to accomplish this by bringing in young people. The seaweed industry will need these individuals’ help as it continues to grow and expand in the next decade.
Leslie emphasizes that there needs to be a shift in our food system and regenerative seaweed farming is a pivotal step. Women are going to help accomplish this transition. Leslie powerfully reflects that “although aquaculture in our country has a history of being a male-dominated industry, this new, regenerative sea farming takes an innate sense of stewardship, that I feel is inherent to women, and therefore, it's imperative that we lead the way forward.”
Deniz Ficicioglu, Co-founder of Nordic Oceanfruit, and her partner, Jacob, spread the positive impact of seaweed farming on our oceans around Europe. Like 12 Tides, Nordic Oceanfruit, sources its seaweed from sustainable, organic aquacultures in the North Atlantic. However, Nordic Oceanfruit sells delicious seaweed salads, toppings, burger patties, and more! Deniz's journey to Nordic Oceanfruit started when she developed food sensitivities. Unable to eat sugar anymore, she was inspired to make her own recipes and to eventually publish two cookbooks on sugar-free, vegan eating. Her passion suddenly became her profession.
Deniz’s inspiration for seaweed grew when she discovered the benefits of seaweed while working at All about the Future of Foods. Her main excitement about seaweed was that it can be farmed in the ocean, while most food is produced on land and in labs. This influenced Deniz to make it her mission while working at Nordic Oceanfruit to create a higher demand for seaweed. The question she attempts to solve is, “How can we make more people eat seaweed on a daily basis?” Globally, we need to increase awareness around seaweed and the advantages of regenerative ocean farming. Deniz encourages everyone to, “do something with seaweed. We see seaweed as part of the entire food system and need more people to work with it to achieve the impact we want to have.” People should take advantage of the countless opportunities to develop delicious, sustainable, and healthy foods out of seaweed.
About the Author: Chanel Bullock is currently a junior at Santa Clara University pursuing a degree in psychology with minors in sustainability and entrepreneurship. She is passionate about incorporating sustainability into her lifestyle and spreading environmental awareness to others. Chanel also loves to surf and anything to do with the ocean!