© Guardian photo by Ryan Ross
Joe Dorgan of North Atlantic Organics addresses the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry Wednesday in Charlottetown. Dorgan was there to discuss his seaweed-processing business based in Seacow Pond.
Company officials ask legislature committee how they can get the assistance for North Atlantic Organics
Joe Dorgan has a problem.
He’s part of a growing seaweed business in Seacow Pond, but needs help to take his company, North Atlantic Organics, further.
To do that, Dorgan and the company’s president, Garth Jenkins, met with the legislature’s agriculture, environment, energy and forestry committee Wednesday to discuss what the business does and its needs for the future.
Dorgan told committee members the company is looking to spend about $200,000 to $250,000 in the next few years on equipment and buildings, but he wasn’t looking for a government handout.
Instead, he wanted to know how he could get the help the company needs.
“I’m not looking for a free ride. I’m looking for help,” he said.
North Atlantic Organics uses different kinds of seaweed, including kelp, rockweed, Irish moss and furcellaria, to make organic livestock feed additives and fertilizers under the Atlantic-Gro brand.
Seaweed harvesting isn’t new to western P.E.I. where the Miminegash area was once known as the Irish moss capital of the world before an invasive species took over.
Since then, North Atlantic Organics has been buying seaweeds from whomever it can to get the supply needed for its production plant.
With thousands of pounds of seaweed going to waste as it rots on Island shores, there is no problem getting enough to meet the company’s needs, Dorgan said.
“The raw product is here.”
Dorgan used to be in the Irish moss business, as well as farming, but he said since furcellaria took over, it’s much harder to get without other seaweeds mixed in.
“The Irish moss industry is dead,” he said.
Last year, North Atlantic Organics employed about 130 people and Dorgan said there are 44 dairy herds in P.E.I. using the company’s products, along with farms in Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
He would like to see those numbers grow.
“We’re doing a big part for a small little area,” he said.
North Atlantic Organics uses an old grinding machine from an agricultural research centre in Fredericton, N.B., and Dorgan said the company tried unsuccessfully to get help from Innovation P.E.I. several years ago.
Dorgan said getting new equipment is a challenge for the company.
“It’s not the grinder we need because we’ve got to push out so much stuff an hour to be able to make money,” he said.
Lots of people have told Dorgan he can’t do things, but he said he wants to have people tell him how he can do them.
“I’m not one bit interested in can’t.”
Dorgan’s presentation seemed to strike a chord with the committee’s MLAs who praised the work his company was doing and chairwoman Paula Biggar committed to looking into why his application to Innovation P.E.I. was unsuccessful.
“It’s a phenomenal idea,” she said.