Barti and the Big Blue

Keep watching this space. In 2020 we set the ball rolling on a project close to our hearts.

The Blue Carbon Story So Far….

Jonathan Williams started Café Môr in 2010 as a mobile catering business celebrating the wonderful produce of the Pembrokeshire coastline: seafood, seaweeds and wild seashore plants. In 2012, Café Môr became enveloped in a wider venture; The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company, which began developing a range of sea foraged food products, from Welshman’s Caviar (dried laver flakes) to seaweed Pesto. In more recent years, Jonathan founded a spiced rum brand, Barti Rum, which again uses a seaweed infusion to enhance and smooth the flavour of the spirit.

Jonathan describes “One morning, I was at the beach collecting seaweed to use in my menu and rum, when I had a conversation with a local lobster fisherman, Danny, the owner of local business DASH Shellfish. He said he had seaweed growing on his equipment and had to employ someone to regularly cut it off. It interested me, that this fisherman’s unwanted seaweed was not only thriving, but regularly self seeding on submerged ropes and fishing kit. I began to wonder if the abundant seaweed he referred to as a nuisance could be used to some benefit.

I told Danny about my ideas and together we left some ‘ghost’ (pretend) lobster pots out for six months to see what would happen. They amassed around 10 kilograms of different seaweed species on each rig, a couple of kilos of mussels and some spider crabs feeding off the mussels. I was amazed – I thought it was like very easy, lazy gardening!

Jonathan Williams with the first “Ghost” lobster pot covered in seaweed.

After a lot of research and speaking to some experts and theorists on the subject of “blue carbon” I became fixated with the idea that the simple method of providing  extra surface area for growth to occur on below the surface of the sea, meant it would quite simply, automatically happen. The more  surface area I can provide, in the form of ropes, the more seaweed  will grow and the more carbon will be absorbed. This project, if proven to be as simple and effective as it appears, could be rolled out in endless waters around the world. The magnitude of positive environmental  impact this could have is almost indescribable.”

That humble conversation on the beach, followed by swathes of research began in 2020 and continues now in 2022. There are still some questions to be answered before any kind of mass project can get funding to go ahead. One of which is whether deterioration  of carbon absorbing efficiency wanes as the seaweed ages. However there are different solutions for this if it proves to be the case. In the instance that the seaweed does become less effective and subsequently completely inactive at absorbing carbon after a certain time has passed, you could recurrently harvest the aged seaweed plants to make way for new spores and use the bi-product in the food industry.

If the project is successful and when the science is able to precisely predict the impact each measure of seaweed has on the carbon crisis, Barti Rum will be the first business to become carbon neutral (or hopefully negative) using this method. It will happen based on the idea that each bottle sale will fund the opportunity for more seaweed to grow in the sea, and absorb an equal amount of carbon, to that which produced and transported the bottle into existence initially. The benefit of this method of becoming “carbon neutral” over the existing method of planting trees to offset carbon is speed and space.

Jonathan continues “From my earliest amateur experiment, right back when we pulled the first ghost pot out of the water onto the boat, it was pretty clear that seaweed grows quicker than trees, and if the early evidence is to be believed, it is better at cancelling carbon than its land counterparts. There is a huge amount of scope for other business’ to use this initiative for a brighter future.

I am excited by the potential of this initiative for myself, both my business’, my family and for future generations all over the world.”

Read more about Cafe Môr and The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company here.

Photo by Shane Stagner on Unsplash