Food and drink from the sea

FEBRUARY has seen the launch of #DorsetAquaBites, a campaign by the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, showcasing the county’s aquaculture, with the aim of making Dorset an international leader in this growing food and drink sector.

Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing and harvesting of marine algae, seaweed, fish and molluscs, in all types of water environment.

The industry currently generates more than £1.4 billion for the UK economy, and the potential is enormous with global aquaculture estimated to be worth more than £174 billion by 2022. By 2030, aquaculture is predicted to be the major source of seafood.

Jim Stewart, chief executive of Poole Harbour Commissioners and the chairman of the LEP, says the campaign is a chance to promote Dorset companies which are already working in this sector.

Mark Frith (pictured), of Hooke Springs Trout Farm, who produces brown and rainbow trout near Beaminster, stresses the importance of the consistent quality and quantity of his farm’s water supply. “If you offered me any other part of England, I would say no thank you.”

Another supporter of the campaign is Sarah Pinder of Dorset Seaweeds, a Portland business which turns wild seaweeds into biostimulants (used in improving soils by stimulating nutrients.) She says: “There is great potential here. If we could get our seaweed from seaweed farms in the future that would be fantastic.”

On Wednesday 4th March,  at Kingston Maurward College, the LEP is hosting OH20: Aquaculture Expo – Commercial Solutions to Global Problems, the UK’s first exhibition and conference focusing on aquaculture and showcasing sustainable UK aquaculture businesses.

The LEP has been working with local organisations to submit a commercial proposition to the Dept for International Trade for Dorset aquaculture to be included in the first round of the High Potential Opportunity investment programme.

… vodka from the sea

Another Dorset-based business inspired by the sea is Shanty Spirit, a seaweed botanical vodka produced by Hugh Lambert at Poole.

He says: “Growing up by the sea in Dorset, I have always felt the shoreline’s magnetic pull. I have had a lifelong love affair with the British coastline and set out to create a spirit that would connect us all directly to the shoreline, no matter where we are.”

A television cameraman for 25 years, who travelled the world and worked on many food and drink programmes, Lambert was inspired after shooting a pilot documentary with Roger Phillips, the author of Wild Food. This project introduced him to the flavours of seaweed which are in abundance around our shores.

At this same period, Lambert began to discover the fascinating art of craft distilling, specifically gin – and learned that gin was essentially flavoured vodka – differentiated by the fact that gin has to contain one essential ingredient, juniper.

The majority of flavoured vodkas are based around a single flavour or a simple blend. Lambert identified an opportunity to create a complex and interesting vodka for the botanical spirits market and decided to try to capture the special flavours of local seaweeds to create a unique botanical vodka.