After half a century of serving rural British farmers, a seaweed fertilizer maker has gone global, doubling export sales of its wonder formula in the past year.
Chase Organics has increased production of SM6, a Soil Association approved “biostimulant”, by 60pc in the past few months to meet international demand.
The company uses a particularly nutrient-rich genus of North Atlantic seaweed, called Ascophyllum nodosum, which grows on the shores of the UK.
In a “coal to Newcastle” story of international success, the firm’s most successful markets for the seaweed concentrate are in Asia, with Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese customers opting to purchase the British seaweed extrant rather than use local products.
Europe produces less than 5pc of the farmed kelp in the world, with more than 90pc grown in the Far East.
In Canada, marijuana farms are currently in trials with the product, keen to produce a much larger bud. “SM6 can be used to help grow anything,” says Chase Organics boss Mike Hedges, who has been with the company for 30 years.
British consumers have already tasted the company’s seaweed-supercharged produce, claims Hedges, as many of the Southern European organic citrus fruits sold in the UK’s supermarkets are grown using SM6.
“Seaweed can withstand boiling hot sun and frozen seas, and grows very quickly. In the same way that humans are what they eat, plants absorb these characteristics from seaweed fertilizer, growing stronger roots and giving a better yield and quality of crop,” claims Hedges.
Hersham-based Chase Organics produces the biostimulant exclusively in the UK, and has now taken on a new manufacturing facility in Weybridge to help meet growing demand.
Farmers are increasingly switching from synthetic fertilizers to organic, natural varieties to meet growing consumer demand for produce that has not been treated with harsh chemicals.
“When you take the lid off SM6, you can smell the sea,” says Hedges. “Most other seaweed products give off a chemical smell, or no odour at all. With ours, farmers can sense immediately that they are getting a very natural product.”
Some of the purest sources of this kind of seaweed are found on the West Coast of Ireland, where crofters have been harvesting small sections of the beaches for thousands of years.
“People who live by the sea have always known that seaweed makes an excellent fertilizer,” says Hedges, who employs more than 100 crofters, and is about to take on more suppliers on the North Atlantic coast.
The business, which was founded in the 1950s, produces an organic gardening catalogue, which sells seeds and gardening products around the world.
Last year, this side of the business represented 75pc of revenues, but the boom in SM6 sales will see the seaweed extract division grow to 50pc of turnover within three years.
The small manufacturer is on target to hit £1m in revenue within three years, after 50 years of being a lifestyle business.
Photo: Chase Organics boss Mike Hedges has been with the company for 30 years
View original article at: Chase Organics, the UK fertilizer firm selling seaweed to the Chinese