Farmers in Australia are experimenting with adding seaweed to cattle feed in order to stop cows producing as much methane.
The seaweed products pioneer company was named supreme winner in the NZI Rural Woman NZ Business Awards.
Bradley says the award is a recognition of the farmers AgriSea works with -- people who are leading the way into the future.
“It is very exciting because often our farmers are excited by farming rather than being down in the dumps. We are pretty lucky to work with some cool people,” she told Dairy News.
AgriSea has also just received a judge’s commendation in the restoring nature section of the Sustainable Business Awards.
That too was recognition of some “incredible dairy farmer customers of ours who are leading the way in reducing their environmental footprint. It was an acknowledgement of those farmers who are doing the work; we just provide the tools.”
Bradley says AgriSea has a range of tools that can help dairy farmers become more environmentally sustainable.
They include a range of products helpful for animal health and preventing of diseases, and products for the land that assist farmers to transition to a more environmentally friendly way of farming.
“We have these transition plans that have been pretty well researched. Change can be really scary for farmers but we have got a whole lot of tools to help them on their way.”
Bradley’s mother-in-law Jill Bradley and partner Keith Atwood started the business in the early 1990s under their sister company Ocean Organics.
“It was almost by accident,” said Clare. “They went on a walking holiday and came across a farm that was healthy and had no disease, no facial eczema yet it was one of those fungal summers. It was a German couple and their main input was a seaweed product they had made themselves.”
Jill and Keith researched the development of a gardening product made from New Zealand seaweed. The business went from strength to strength.
A completely different phase began when they started in the early 2000s creating products for people who live off the land such as farmers, orchardists or commercial growers.
“We had to research cleverly what the effects were of the products on commercial growing systems to make sure we were adding value to people’s businesses. This is their livelihoods so that was a very important step.”
Clare’s husband Tane had grown up in the business and 13 years ago they decided to get out of Auckland and join fulltime. They had three children in that time and officially took over about five years ago.
The seaweed is supplied by a network of hundreds of families in remote coastal communities in New Zealand.
“[We use] only New Zealand seaweed. We want to grow a New Zealand seaweed industry rather than use cheap imported powders that are actually a byproduct. Our seaweed is collected after storms. Each seaweed harvester knows exactly which wind and what conditions bring it onto which beach. They are highly trained in how to collect, prepare and dry it for us.”
In announcing the award, Rural Women national president Fiona Gower says AgriSea’s business model and products are epitomised in Clare’s passion, expertise and commitment to her family’s business.
“The Paeroa company’s impressive investment in research, development and innovation is a showcase of a successful, inter-generational, rural agri-business,” said Gower.
Clare says Tane entered the Rural Women Awards without her knowing. AgriSea had supported the awards before “as we want to encourage rural women to put themselves forward”.
When contacted to say they were a finalist she thought they had made a mistake and were actually contacting her about supporting the awards.
Well-researched tools that will help farmers into the future is AgriSea’s focus, says Clare Bradley.
The company’s continuous product development results from their being close to their customers.
“We don’t sell to third parties. We are right on farm gathering information about what farmers and growers need and trying to solve those problems. We are really lucky to be up close with our customers which gives us the ability to develop products which are useful in their business.”
One example is that until a few years ago they were a liquid only company.
“We looked for a very long time for a carrier for our liquid. We now have a product where the liquid is absorbed onto a chip and farmers can mix it in with their conventional fertiliser and it gives a probiotic effect in the soils. That has been a really good product introduced to the farming community.”
A PhD student at Lincoln University is researching the effects of one AgriSea product on ruminant nutrition.