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Business Spotlight: Câr-Y-Môr

02 Jun, 2023

Câr-Y-Môr is on a mission to grow the first commercial seaweed and shellfish farm in Wales and is committed to making a positive impact on the Welsh coastline and the local community. As a community benefit society, Câr-Y-Môr has over 240 members and relies on donations and membership fees to fund its work. In 2023, the company won the St David’s Award for Business.

Câr-Y-Môr joined GlobalWelsh’s Business membership programme at the beginning of 2023 because they wanted to take their mission global and explore the role diaspora can play. We caught up with Ella Sturley to learn more about the company and how they are bettering the world around them…

Tell me a little bit about Câr-Y-Môr

Câr-Y-Môr was founded in 2019 as Wales’ first regenerative ocean farm where we grow seaweed and shellfish in a multi-species and multi-trophic culture. The best way to describe it is as an underwater garden. By growing shellfish and seaweed together they help each other thrive as their waste products are what the other needs. 

We are positioned about 100 metres offshore between Ramsey Island and Pembrokeshire’s mainland, where there’s a huge tidal flow, which helps create a diverse marine ecosystem and improves the growth rate of our products. The farm itself is about 3 hectares but we also have some other trial sites where we’re testing the water quality and the impact this difference can have on marine life. 

Our seaweed turnaround is approximately 4-5 months and it’s harvested from a metre below the surface. We also grow mussels and oysters in lantern nets or in cages which sit on the ocean floor. Anyone can join our membership scheme which starts from as little as £1 and this payment means you get a vote on what we could do in the future.

"Seaweed has been used for centuries in the UK and Wales in particular, as it’s all natural with no chemicals, there’s no damage and it works wonders for people and plants."

Why is Wales the best place for your business?

The water and the tidal flow plays an important role in producing a quality product. We’re very lucky to have such great conditions here in Pembrokeshire. People have set up seaweed farms in other parts of the world but they haven’t had the same results as us. For example, I was speaking to one of our directors from Holland who set up a farm and there is a massive difference between our two products. Her product takes longer to grow and it isn’t of the same quality, most of this is due to the difference in tidal flow which we benefit from. Our seaweed is thick, of a good length and experiences little to no breakages. Think about it like hair, if you have thick hair and no split ends you’d have pretty healthy hair, the same with seaweed.

Tell us about your products? 

Seaweed has been used for centuries in the UK and Wales in particular, as it’s all natural with no chemicals, there’s no damage and it works wonders for people and plants. We sell packets of different seaweeds such as sugar kelp and kombu, which can be eaten directly from the packet or cooked. We also sell seaweed granola, seasonings, oils and even seaweed spaghetti! It’s pretty versatile!

We also process crab and lobster from local fishermen and help them sell around the UK. We work with the fishermen to sell a Pembrokeshire Platter which includes prawns, smoked salmon, crab, lobster and other shellfish. We have recently harvested our first mussels which weighed 56 kilograms, so we’re looking forward to this being one of our key products in the not-too-distant future. 

"Seaweed is one of the most sustainable products you can farm. You don’t need fertilisers, pesticides or any other nasty chemicals - you just need to plant it and watch it grow meaning it’s very planet-friendly."

Tell us a little bit more about why seaweed is so great?

There are lots of amazing things about seaweed. It's great for eating but it can also be added into your skincare routine. For example, one of our products is a bath bag which you can leave to soak in the bath for 10 minutes and this has been proven to help with some peoples eczema and psoriasis.

Seaweed is high in iodine and they’re full of vitamins and minerals. If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet you could also use seaweed as a protein substitute. These are just a few examples but seaweed can be highly beneficial to your skin, digestion and general health - a bit of a superfood!

How do you sustainably farm seaweed? 

Seaweed is one of the most sustainable products you can farm. You don’t need fertilisers, pesticides or any other nasty chemicals - you just need to plant it and watch it grow meaning it’s very planet-friendly. Unlike other products you can harvest a large amount of seaweed with very little intervention which makes it a really great food source at a time where it’s hard to find sustainable foods. 

While there’s not a massive demand for seaweed right now, some companies are sourcing their seaweed from the wild and taking it straight from the beach. This is an issue now and looking to the future, when the demand outstrips the supply, this practice could have a very negative impact on the ocean and its creatures who use it as a core food source.

We’re due to start working with Cardiff University to research the positive impact seaweed has on the marine environment. From improving biodiversity to carbon sequestration. There’s not alot of research on this at the moment so we’re looking forward to those findings. 

"We are always looking for members, volunteers and supporters, so we are excited to be part of GlobalWelsh who can help us amplify the work we do across social channels and the Connect platform."

What does the future look like for Câr-Y-Môr?

We would like to become commercially viable and we’re due to build a refinery where we could create the fibres that are used in bioplastics and work with companies like Notpla to create a plastic free alternative. We also want to expand our farm to 10 hectares and then look to take our business model to other coastal towns and help the communities. 

This year and next, we are excited to work with GlobalWelsh to build our network and connect with other Welsh people who might be just as passionate about seaweed, the environment and Pembrokeshire as we are. We are always looking for members, volunteers and supporters, so we are excited to be part of GlobalWelsh who can help us amplify the work we do across social channels and the Connect platform. Speaking at the next Connect to London event is also a great opportunity for us to make connections in London and pitch our mission to an audience of people who care about Wales. 

Connect with Ella and Câr-Y-Môr via Connect >>

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