Seaweed Processing for Agriculture and Gardens
The first records of seaweed being processed come from China in 2700 BC, with Europeans coming into the market rather belatedly in the 12th century. In the UK, the agricultural use of seaweed was first restricted to bulk fresh weed as a manure and soil conditioner but as transport and labour costs rose, raw seaweed was replaced by processed meal, and the in the 1950’s the first methods for converting it into a liquid extract were developed.
In the 1950’s Chase Organics developed our original seaweed extract called “Sea Magic”, using selected seaweed varieties and a unique aqueous extraction process. This version was then refined and made more concentrated to become Chase SM3 Seaweed Extract, with 15% soluble seaweed solids, in 1958. The Sea Magic brand name was dropped to give the product a more scientific sounding title, as in those days organic growing was considered by the establishment to a fringe activity based on “muck and magic”. As worldwide demand grew for our seaweed extract it became clear that a super concentrated version would be more economic to ship and use, and the double strength Chase SM6 Seaweed Extract, with 30% soluble seaweed solids, was developed. By 1990, all of our commercial customers in the UK and around the world were using SM6, while SM3 continues to be the favourite for garden use. The high concentration of the two versions make them more economic to use than many othe brands, and our unique process results in a sweet, natural smelling, chocolate brown liquid that enjoys a high level of loyalty from users.
The seaweed used by Chase Organics originates around the Atlantic shores of the British Isles where seaweed has been harvested for generations. It is a truly renewable resource as the seaweed is cut by hand taking care that about 15cm of stalk is left for re-growth. This means it can be harvested every four years without endangering its survival.
The cut seaweed is bound in nets and at high tide floated to the closest beach or slipway for transportation to a nearby factory. Here it is washed to remove sand, stones etc and chopped prior to drying. Temperatures are monitored to avoid overcooking and degradation. The dried seaweed meal is shipped to England where it is processed in specialist equipment to make our concentrated liquid extracts Chase SM3 and Chase SM6. A gentle aqueous, chemical free process is used, that can best be compared with coffee percolation on a huge scale ! The liquid is then concentrated by evaporation to the required level of soluble solids. Nothing is added apart from food grade preservatives to maintain stability. It is this natural characteristic that has enabled Chase Seaweed Extracts to be approved for use on organic crops by the relevant bodies in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Spain and other countries.
It is good to know that modern science has in recent times backed up what ancient farmers just understood through using seaweed, and that a natural, rather than chemical, product can make the vital difference to a successful agricultural business.
Our thanks to Andrew E Davenport for allowing us to use part of his research into the history of Chase Organics and QR compost making, further details of which are revealed in his book, ‘Quick Return Compost Making – The Essence of the Sustainable Organic Garden’, available from The Organic Gardening Catalogue.