Ocean Leaves harnesses the natural benefits of algae to produce a range of products for the domestic gardening and agricultural sectors. Ocean Leaves’ products act as 'bio-stimulants' that can help to regulate and enhance the physiological processes of plants, thereby increasing plant health and growth, while also improving soil conditions. With a little help from the EU, the company could scale up its production.
Mary Meyler, founder of Ocean Leaves, set up the company after discovering that the coastline in the south-east of Ireland, near her residence, has over 500 types of natural seaweed, and that for centuries these have been used as a nutrient for soil and plants, stimulating plant health, improving crop yields and quality, and extending shelf life after harvesting.
As the 'weed' part of the word 'seaweed' has a somewhat negative connotation, Mary decided to call the brand Ocean Leaves, taking inspiration from the Japanese definition of macroalgae: ‘sea vegetables’. For Mary, this better reflect the algae positive role and usefulness.
Giving gardens a natural boost
Ocean Leaves uses two varieties of algae in its fertilisers: Fucus vesiculosis (bladderwrack) and Ascophyllum nodosum (knotted wrack), known locally as an feamann bhuí, which translates as ‘yellow gold’. Also known as rockweed, Ascophyllum nodosum has historically been recognised for its bio-stimulant properties. Farmers on the Aran Islands relied on it for centuries to convert sand into fertile soil. The Vikings also called knotted wrack the ‘gold of the north’, indicating its long-held historic value.
Using these algae, Ocean Leaves produces products that transfer these natural benefits to domestic gardeners and commercial horticulturists across Ireland who do not have easy access to the coast. It has led to a rediscovery of ancient traditions and an awakening of consumer knowledge in relation to natural local marine resources. As Mary puts it: 'Ocean Leaves utilises natural marine assets to achieve horticultural success.'
A little help from the EU
It was a small grant from the Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) South East that helped a small business like Ocean Leaves to reach wider national markets. Using the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), Ocean Leaves bought much-needed specific equipment to improve its production capacity and was able to scale up its production and develop supply chains across the whole of Ireland, matching growth of production with growth of sales.
In doing so, Ocean Leaves is redefining the image of algae and its use in Ireland and the EU. It contributes to a sustainable blue economy.
- Publication date
- 20 December 2022
- Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries