We at Sea Vegetable Company collect and study seaweed, which is in decline in its natural state, and restore it through land-based and sea-surface cultivation with a low environmental impact, while also developing new ways of consuming the product.
More than 1,500 species of seaweeds inhabit the seas of Japan, all of them considered non-toxic and edible. Even so, only a few dozen varieties make their way to the table — in a country said to have the most advanced marine cuisine in the world. In other words, many types of seaweed remain untapped as potential foodstuffs. Whereas the plants of the earth have been thoroughly evaluated and various methods of cultivation and cooking established, the world of seaweed is still being discovered — indeed, the process has hardly begun.
Our company seeks to preserve the seaweed-consuming culture of the past and expand it further. To do so will support the wellbeing of both the ocean environment and humankind. Our daily activities are based on this belief.
Bringing together specialists from various fields
Our team of marine specialists include, among others, a diver who has spent 40 years collecting and classifying seaweed around Japan, a researcher with years of experience
producing algae seeds and seedlings, and an expert in water quality and nutrient analysis. Working in collaboration with other researchers from outside the company, their cross-disciplinary endeavors range from basic research on seaweed to the development of cultivation techniques.
Certain seaweed species have been in steady decline, some even approaching extinction. The food culture associated with seaweed is also threatened. By securing the endangered varieties, reviving and reproducing them, we can conserve them for the future. We are united in this cause
World’s first land-based cultivation of Suji-Aonori using subterranean seawater
Since Sea Vegetable Company began, we have been mainly producing Suji-Aonori (green laver), the most aromatic and highest quality green seaweed. This variety was once mainly harvested from the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture, but yields plummeted due to rising water temperatures in the estuary. By 2020, shipments were down to zero. Declining yields at other locations have led to supplies increasingly falling short of demand. In response, our company has achieved a world’s first: the cultivation of seaweed above ground using clean, mineral-rich, subterranean seawater
By employing our patented cultivation methods and production expertise, we can now provide a stable supply of high-quality Suji-Aonori throughout the year. A comparison with the Suji-Aonori growing in the Yoshino River, in the same region, has found that our product contains between 2.5 to 4.5 times more dimethyl sulfide,
considered the main aromatic component of green laver.
Sea-surface cultivation to nurture a rich marine ecosystem
Seaweed beds are considered the “cradles of the sea”: they nurture fish, shellfish, and other creatures and help keep the marine ecosystem in balance. Due to rising sea temperatures, however, the period of greatest activity of marauders such as aigo (rabbitfish) and urchins that feed on seaweed has been prolonged, resulting in significant damage and a drastic decline in seaweed beds in many parts of the country
Confronted with this situation, our solution to the problem has been to cultivate seaweed on the sea surface.
By identifying when and where feeding damage is minimized by lowered water temperatures, and by
selecting seaweed varieties best suited to the conditions, we start new cropping. Only when a greater risk of feeding damage becomes inevitable are cages then employed to continue the cultivation. We believe this strategy will provide a long-lasting solution in which seaweed can be grown in previously unexploited areas thereby enriching and nurturing the marine ecosystem.
Promoting seaweed’s new attractiveness and ways of eat it
Test Kitchen, our base for seaweed cuisine development, was established in the autumn of 2021. Chef Shui Ishizaka and two other cooks have been working daily to discover the potential of different seaweeds as foodstuffs. They have assessed more than 100 varieties, acquiring and sharing knowledge on new ways of utilizing seaweed previously unknown to the culinary world to a large extent. Through desserts, drinks, fermented seasonings, and other products that release the hidden appeal of seaweed, we have uncovered surprising and inspiring ways of eating seaweed. These products have received high praise not only in Japan but also many other parts of the world.
“Re-seaweed,” our original brand developed by Ishizaka, offers “the
experience of tastes no one has ever savored before, using seaweed as the main ingredient.”
Seaweed is flavorful and interesting
Through the new seasonings and processed foods constantly being produced at Test Kitchen, through events such as Cooking Exchange Meetings that introduce ways of
eating seaweed, and through the influence of seaweed-based products from sellers and manufacturers around Japan, more and more people have come to know how flavorful and interesting the ingredient is.
This network of interest, resembling the links in a seaweed plant itself, a symbol of diversity, is spreading like a vibrant ecosystem around us: people who transmit their own ways of savoring this foodstuff and others who have become our partners by utilizing their expertise
We envision a “cycle” in which simple reactions of delight — “Isn’t it tasty!" or “Isn’t it interesting!” — swell and grow, adding to the abundance of the sea. It would give us great pleasure if you, too, joined this ecosystem by eating flavorful seaweed.