Landlocked Derbyshire is an unusual location for a company which reaps its harvest from the sea.
Surrounded by the picturesque hills of the Peak District, businessman David Owens runs a company trading in dried organic seaweed which he operates from his home in Chapel en le Frith.
He’s a busy man, not only supplying his product to major wholesalers but also working as a retained firefighter.
“It can sometimes be a little difficult having the two jobs especially when I’m on courses but otherwise the two occupations offer me everything I want from my working life,” said David.
“I’ve always been happiest doing something I thought was worthwhile and The Atlantic Kelp Company and seaweed certainly ticks that box for me as does the Fire Service.
“I’m quite a social person by nature and enjoy the environment of working within a group towards a common goal and for that the fire brigade is a great environment to develop these sort of relationships in.
“ It’s an organisation I’m proud to be a member of and I look forward to being able to contribute my time to it in the future.”
David, an experienced diver, made his home in Derbyshire while working as an engineer involved in incinerator operations during the BSE outbreak.
But a burgeoning interest in nutrition sparked by concerns for his nearest and dearest prompted a career change.
“Originally, my interest in health through nutrition, especially super foods, came from my experiences with my daughter, Emily, the youngest of our three children,” he said.
“She was a very bad eater and when we started to try and feed her solid foods, she ate virtually nothing solid for three years.
“The doctors offered little comfort and so I looked into the things her body needed and the best and easiest ways to get these into her. This got me into juicing which eventually became my first dip into doing something health-related as a business.”
A friend with coeliac disease, who was looking into kelp tablets to boost her diet, was the trigger for his entry into the seaweed business.
“One thing I’d learned dealing with Emily is that if you want something from food get it from the whole food version rather than tablets,” said David. “Nature’s been doing this a lot longer than we have and the synergy between nutritional compounds is something that’s still not fully understood.
“Seaweed is a natural filter and it filters all the elements found in seawater ; in comparison to land vegetables seaweed’s nutritional spectrum is huge and contains almost a bit of every element we need.”David’s company supplies dried organic seaweed which is stocked by UK wholesalers SUMA, Tree of Life, CLF and Queenswood Natural Foods.
The seaweed is harvested from Nova Scotia in Canada, cleaned, then either ground into granular powder or milled into fine flour before being classified and packaged.Part of David’s mission is to educate the next generation of cooks on the health-giving properties of seaweed. The marine vegetable is claimed, although not scientifically proven in every case, to ease arthritic pain, fight heart disease and cancer, boost energy levels and combat hair loss.
“One of the things I like to do through the company is offer educational talks on health through nutrition,” he said. “The talks are aimed at primary school children and simplify what happens to the foods that we eat and why it is so important to have a balanced diet.
“The body is a fabulous piece of kit but it’s a sad fact that most people will take their health for granted until it’s gone. Where the body’s concerned, prevention is better than cure.
“Educating children now could save the NHS millions of pounds in the future.”
Kelp is renowned to be rich in iodine, making it beneficial to people affected by thyroid problems.
One thing’s for sure, if The Atlantic Kelp Company had been in the county 200 years ago, the painful affliction known as Derbyshire Neck would have been short-lived.
The science bit:
Science appears to back enthusiasts’ claims that seaweed has health-giving properties.
Although no definite conclusions were drawn, a study undertaken at Sheffeld’s Hallam University in 2012 called The Potential Health Benefits Of Seaweed And Seaweed Extract by scientists Iaian Brownlee, Andrew Fairclough, Anna Hall and Jenny Paxman suggests that daily intakes of seaweed (equating to 2g of dry seaweed appears to reduce disease risk.
More evidence comes from food and dietary advisers who promote the perceived health-giving properties of seaweed and the chemicals and nutrients it contains suggesting that it is:
Great for digestive health
High in nutrients, low in calories
May improve heart health
Has heavy-duty detox properties
May help regulate hormones
An all-round tonic
Goes well with other healthy foods