Pet food producer set to launch seaweed-based supplements in UK

Pet-food producer Seahorse Atlantic is launching its innovative range of organically grown seaweed-based products on the British market.

Having formally launched the company in March, UCC marine biologist Sarah Jane O’Sullivan and co-founder Michael Murphy are delighted with the instant trade and customer approval greeting Seahorse Atlantic’s natural Irish horse feed supplement, derived from 100% organically grown seaweed.

The company’s products for dogs and cats have also been selling well. This response is a ringing endorsement for the quality of kelp, which is grown in Ventry Bay on suspended long lines by Dingle Bay Seaweed.

The instant success is also very encouraging for the company’s industry supporters, including BIM’s Seafood Development Centre and UCC’s IGNITE programme. China could also be an ideal market for these products, which have a shelf life of more than 18 months.

“We have been watching the progress made by Minister Coveney in China, and that is an option we will definitely be considering at some stage,” said Sarah Jane O’Sullivan. “We are just about to go up on the UK website, so we’ll see how that works out first.

“We will try to build up our presence in the UK market this year, and attend trade fairs like the RDS. We are only on the market since March and the response has been very positive. Dingle Bay Seaweed is just about to harvest its next supply of Seahorse supplement.”

Dingle Bay Seaweed effectively initiated this product range. The company approached Ms O’Sullivan more than a year ago with a seafood research proposal. Kenmare Veterinary Centre conducted a six-week feeding trial.

The horses in the trial showed marked improvements in hoof health, coat quality and overall appearance.

West Cork Enterprise Board funded a feasibility study, IGNITE offered funding and free incubation space and mentoring.

BIM helped develop a prototype, since approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Having registered with the department, Seahorse Atlantic’s products have been through scientific tests and carry the relevant industry seals of approval.

“The IGNITE programme was brilliant,” said Ms O’Sullivan. “I just went in with an idea in my head. One year later, I have a business that is ideally suited to my passions. I love animals, research work and the ocean. It’s not a bit like a nine-to-five job, I’d be doing these things 24/7 in any case.

“To be honest, I don’t think I could have done it without the help I’ve received. The Seafood Development Centre at BIM were very helpful throughout the process, and they are continuing to help with future prototypes and research.

“Dingle Bay Seaweed’s kelp is a perfect match for what horses require. We are working with a specific kelp for horses, and a different seaweed for cats and dogs. The seaweed is milled and stored in a sealed container, and has a shelf life of over 18 months.”

Seahorse Atlantic is involved in an EU research project and Sarah is liaising with potential funders. She holds a primary degree in environmental science (zoology) and a masters in marine biology.

Seahorse Atlantic is one of a number of success stories emanating from the UCC IGNITE programme.

IGNITE is recruiting for next year’s intake, starting in Oct. The closing date is June 1, 2012.

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