NS Company Making Waves in Atlantic Canada with Acadia’s “Kelp”
by Perry, Scott
SeaChange Biochemistry Inc. is an innovative start-up based in Cape Sable, Nova Scotia that has developed a unique process to simultaneously extract multiple high value industrial chemicals from a single seaweed species. This allows them to produce these chemicals at a much lower cost than their competitors.
“Our innovative process triples output and reduces production costs by over 50%, generates high margins, produces high quality products, eliminates waste and has an overall positive environmental impact,” said Sabrena Mackenzie, co-founder of SeaChange.
Dr. Allison Walker, Associate Professor in Acadia University’s Department of Biology with significant expertise in microbes and their biotechnological applications, started working with the company in 2019 after MacKenzie approached Acadia for assistance preserving a unique form of yeast for possible future fermentation and lactic acid production. Acadia’s Office of Industry and Community Engagement (ICE) connected Mackenzie with Dr. Walker and subsequently helped pave the way for the team to establish the first kelp seedling nursery in Atlantic Canada. The nursery is located in the KC Irving Environmental Science Centre and operates with the support of Acadia graduate, Tyler d’Entremont, MSc.
“It’s an exciting project to be involved with. The kelp grew very well. Surprisingly, that was the easiest part. The biggest challenge I faced was keeping the water clean, at the right temperature and free from contamination.” said d’Entremont.
Access to a kelp nursery/seedling bank allows SeaChange to control all the steps of their supply chain, leading to sustainable and cost-efficient practices. It also ensures that this source material is available year-round to supply demand from the food and beverage, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Traditionally, Kelp sorus tissue is only available in the fall when wild seaweed is reproductive.
“Young kelp plants are started at Acadia, grown under controlled environmental conditions and then placed out in St. Mary’s Bay, Nova Scotia, where they mature and are harvested. This is a big step for Atlantic Canada. Kelp farming is expected to lead to many new jobs in our region,” noted Dr. Walker.
This research collaboration started with funding under the NRC-IRAP Contribution to Organization (CtoO) program, and then expanded with a Tier 1 and a subsequent Tier 2 Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) Productivity & Innovation Voucher(s).
“Acadia’s ICE Office has been instrumental in connecting us with researchers, infrastructure, and helping us secure funding opportunities like the NSBI Voucher Program. They have also helped us navigate the university environment,” said MacKenzie. “Dr. Walker and her team have been fantastic. We appreciate the support of the KC Irving Centre and their staff for making this possible. Acadia clearly recognizes the potential this project has for Atlantic Canada and continues to support us on our journey.”