The Sea-Chem story begins in South America in 1992. It's a journey that spans 20 years and nearly 6,000 miles.
Convened by the United Nations at the start of the 1990s, the Rio Earth Summit marked not only the emergence of the modern ecological and environmental movements on the international stage, but also the beginning of Sea-Chem’s story. The Rio Declaration pledged, amongst other things, that the 180 governments in attendance would begin to investigate new, organic alternatives to the toxic or hazardous chemical products that were being used across industry at that time. Following Rio, the 'Environmental Technology' sector sprang up almost overnight, and the massive drive towards innovation and sustainability in industry began.
Seaweed – long celebrated for its health and agricultural applications by coastal communities the world over – immediately attracted attention as one natural, sustainable resource with possible industrial applications. Across Europe, chemists and biologists began to investigate the science behind these age-old practices - and soon developed an appreciation for the unique blend of micronutrients and biosurfactants contained within certain species of seaweed. European scientists began to refine these basic raw materials into various organic products, including new solutions for the bioremediation of contaminated soil and industrial/process cleaning - as well as digging deeper into the science behind seaweed's traditional horticultural role. Sea-Chem's product lines would eventually develop out of their efforts.
Sea-Chem Limited was founded in a barn in the Shropshire countryside in 2007 after its owners bought up the rights to several of the most exciting seaweed products developed since the Rio Earth Summit. Working alongside experienced biochemists, they carried out the final testing of these products and began the process of taking them to market. Since that time Sea-Chem's portfolio of products has struck a chord with a variety of business, and the general public at large. The company has also been able to refine its ranges and in some cases add new complimentary products to them. For example, our BioBoost bacterial products help to fortify our seaweed solutions for contaminated land and wastewater, creating novel approaches to tackling age-old problems.
Since its inception, Sea-Chem developed rapidly, establishing a reputation as an innovative and reliable supplier of environmental solutions. Within the brownfield remediation industry, its Sea Power 101 and BioBoost products have proved incredibly popular and successful, helping to redefine the boundaries in terms of what can be bioremediated and on what timescale. Added to this is an increasing demand for greener products from right across the economy. In 2012, Sea-Chem set up various eCommerce channels to begin selling their products direct to homeowners and small businesses. The Shropshire Seaweed brand of garden products and outdoor cleaners proved particularly successful, as did their septic tank treatments.
As a result of the evolving nature of the business, Sea-Chem were forced to leave their idyllic farmyard base and relocate to a larger and more accesible industrial unit in nearby Telford in 2012. Looking forward, the business is now well placed to continue its rapid expansion in both online and offline markets, and in turn to help deliver green solutions to homes and businesses, across the United Kingdom and beyond.
In June 1992 the Rio Earth Summit put forward a bold new agenda: to get the governments of the world to replace the hazardous chemicals currently used in their industries with organic alternatives. This vision - if it could be achieved - represented a 'Virtuous Circle': after all, what is generally good for mankind is also beneficial to the planet, and vice versa.
Most farmers don't enjoy using chemical fertilisers because they're very unpleasant to work with, not to mention the health risk; give them an organic alternative and they can apply it in full knowledge that the product is safe and beneficial to the environment. In turn, a planet with less chemicals is a much healthier and gratifying place to live. The 'Virtuous Circle' is thereby completed.
In practive, however, a range of economic factors prevent the majority of farmers from ditching their traditional chemical fertilisers and replacing them with something kinder. Whilst we would all like to see the emergence of 'Virtuous Circle' products, the environmental sector must balance their Utopian vision with economic realities. Green products must strive to be as good for profits as they are for the people who use them and the planet we share. Sea-Chem aims to achieve this balance in five key ways.
Green products are often at a disadvantage when it comes to price. Competing against multinational chemical corporations, whose raw materials are often much cheaper than sustainable, green alternatives, can be near-impossible for many environmental companies. However, the difference in price is often less than you might think; and as anyone who has bought budget toilet paper knows, the cheapest price rarely translates to the most economic choice.
Green products can often exceed their chemical counterparts in terms of performance because they often approach a problem from a different point of view. Sea-Chem's bioremediation products are a good example. For years companies tried to accelerate this natural process by delivering extra oxygen to soil bacteria using a process called oxidisation, which involved pumping nasty chemicals into the soil. In searching for a green alternative, scientists discovered that the performance of the bacteria could be better enhanced by providing them with beneficial nutrients and special organic compounds that allowed them to digest pollutants more efficiently. Comparing the two, the new technology performs better, making it a more economical choice than the old chemical system.
Energy is an expensive commodity - and moving forward its price is only set to increase. Hence, green products that require less heat or electricity than chemical solutions for the same application can save thousands of pounds in the long term. One example of this is the Sea Clean Industrial Degreaser, which requires nearly one third less heat in a component washing system than a caustic solution.
Environmental legislation is having an increasing effect on businesses and helping to shape the product choices they make. With big fines and tex disincentives for contributing to air, soil and water pollution, it often makes sense to opt for greener, cleaner technologies from the outset.
Green products by their very nature carry less health and safety risks than chemical alternatives. Consequently, they almost always allow individuals and companies to make logistical savings in terms of their handling and application, not forgetting the benefits that having such low-risk products will have when it comes to insuring a premises.
Each one of Sea-Chem's products ticks several (if not all) of these boxes. For that reason, we now believe we have developed a range of organic, sustainable products which can compete with the existing chemical alternatives, not only socially and environmentally, but also financially.
At Sea-Chem, the environmental impact of our business has never been an after-thought. Each stage in our manufacturing process has been influenced by our drive to find the greenest, cleanest option currently available. Collectively, these decisions ensure that an inefficient, high-carbon manufacturing process does not adversely offset the positive environmental impact that our biodegradable, sustainable products have on the world around us.
Seaweed has a relatively long life cycle for a plant - anywhere between 3 and 5 years - which means human beings need to pay particularly close attention to how their stocks are managed. Sea-Chem therefore ensures that it only sources seaweed farmed on a sustainable scale, which the UN currently estimates to be no more than 100 million tonnes per annum.
Harvested almost exclusively from the unpolluted waters of the Irish west coast, our seaweed is washed, dried and ground at source using a low-temperature, low-carbon process, and then transported by sea to the North of England for manufacturing. We believe that this represents the best environmental choice currently available, minimising the amount of miles that our raw materials must be carried by road.
All of Sea-Chem's products are manufactured using our propriety, low-temperature, low-carbon process, and contain no additional chemicals or solvents. This ensures that our products are environmentally superior to those of our competitors, which often contain petrochemicals or other compounds, such as benzene, phospates, APEs and formaldehyde, which are all deemed to have a negative impact on our eco-system. Furthermore, when we fortify our solutions with additional plant surfactants and esters, we ensure that these new raw materials are also sustainably harvested and fully biodegradable, that is, totally consistent with EU301 categories A to D. Finally, because our manufacturing process is compliant with ISO 9001, 2000, our products are not only 100% organic, but fully traceable.
We do not hold large, industrial quantities of stock at our Shropshire office. Instead, all of our large orders are made to order at our manufacturing site near Manchester and are shipped directly to our customers. This ensures that unnecessary journeys can be avoided and that the distance our products are transported by land is kept to an absolute minimum.
Chris joined Sea-Chem in 2010 and is now the managing director of the company. With a track record of managing companies in the automotive and hardware industries, he is now enjoying a new challenge developing and marketing new products in the emerging environmental sector.
David joined Sea-Chem in 2011 after graduating from university. He is chiefly responsible for product development, online marketing and eCommerce at the company.