Seaweed business to double in size

Irish seaweed biotech company Pure Ocean Algae raises €1.5m seed funding, which will enable it to double staff and invest €3m over the next two years.

Formed in 2019, Pure Ocean Algae is the first commercial end to end production platform to produce the red seaweed Palmaria palmata, commonly known as Dulse.

Dulse is a highly prized red seaweed used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics and food/vegetable protein sectors.

“This funding will allow us to expand our land-based production sites, our sea-based capabilities, and will allow us to expand our R&D and implementation teams”

Macro-algae species are particularly high in protein and are environmentally sustainable, commanding retail prices of more than €120 per dried Kg dried and grow very well under Irish conditions. The existing natural sources are coming under more and more pressure from over exploitation and destruction of its natural habitat, something that Pure Ocean Algae would like to see reversed.

Led by CEO, Michael O’Neill, the company operates its own land-based hatchery, nursery and processing facility while also developing eighty hectares of licensed sea sites for the growing of various seaweed species.

Building the blue economy

The investment will be used to expand the existing land-based facilities to cater for 250 hectares of sea site production and ancillary services. Working with existing seaweed farmers the company hopes to expand to a production area of 500 hectares over the next three years.

“This funding will allow us to expand our land-based production sites, our sea-based capabilities, and will allow us to expand our R&D and implementation teams,” O’Neill said.

“We are also investigating various opportunities to develop the services element of the business through international partnerships and collaborations to bring our technology to a global audience.

“Pure Ocean Algae is a vehicle for positive impact socially, economically, and environmentally. Given the ever-increasing evidence of global warming and its impacts on our lives and for future generations it is imperative that we investigate new and innovative solutions to slow its progress and ultimately reverse the damage caused by man-made climate change. Our ambition is to grow a business that supports our strong environmental ethos while creating value chains which support our bottom line and satisfy the expectations of our investors.”

Pure Ocean Algae already employs five full time employees and two part time. With this investment the team employed in Beara will increase to twelve full time employees.

“Pure Ocean Algae is an excellent Irish biotech company making a positive sustainable impact with their innovative Red Seaweed platform from the Beara Peninsula,” said Alan Hobbs, manager of Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-up Unit.

“Established in 2019, this HPSU has already made great progress and is providing high quality employment in West Cork. Enterprise Ireland has worked closely with Pure Ocean Algae since its inception and we look forward to continuing to work with Michael and the team on their global ambition”

This round of Funding was led by The Yield Lab, Europe’s largest early-stage Ag-Tech investor which is itself supported by Enterprise Ireland and AIB. Also joining this funding are the West Cork based Carbery Group, US based Sea-ahead Blue Angel Group and Enterprise Ireland.

“The Blue economy is a very vibrant space currently and critical for Europe to deliver on its climate commitments,” said David Bowles, managing partner at The Yield Lab Europe.

“At The Yield Lab we have seen a lot of companies that are attempting to deliver seaweed related solutions and we were very impressed with the quality and sophistication of what the team in Beara have delivered. We had no hesitation in investing in such a world leading product.”

Main image: Pure Ocean Algae CEO Michael O’Neill

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.