Briana Warner

Photo by Ben Macri

Briana Warner, CEO of Atlantic Sea Farms

By Paul Koenig

Atlantic Sea Farms started off 2020 strong. The kelp farming company launched a collaboration with chef David Chang and Sweetgreen in February, and it had pre-sold its upcoming kelp harvest to food service outlets and fast casual chains throughout the country. “Then, it all evaporated,” says CEO Briana Warner. Heading into the harvest season in April, the company had 16 partner farmers—many of them commercial fishermen and lobstermen trying to diversify their incomes—and no buyers for hundreds of thousands of pounds of seaweed. “We didn’t know exactly what we were going to do with the kelp, but we knew we needed to uphold our word to our partner farmers and find another way to come back stronger,” Warner says. “We brought on new team members to help grow our retail presence, and we not only lived to see another day, but we thrived.” In just one year, the company transitioned its sales model from food service to retail, and has placed its products in more than 1,300 retail stores nationwide. This year Atlantic Sea Farms’ 24 partner farmers grew twice as much as they did last season; the company produces more than 80 percent of all the line-grown seaweed grown in the country. “Maine is now not only the epicenter of U.S. line-grown kelp but also the proof of concept to which the rest of the country is looking to see how to help diversify their own coastal communities,” Warner says. “We need kelp aquaculture on the coast of Maine for a better future, and the future is looking bright for kelp.”

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