Kelp Industries



  • 1971
    • Tasmanian Alginates (Jim Luck) first established contact with Alginate Industries Ltd of London regarding the possible supply of Tasmanian Bull Kelp seaweed.
  • 1973
    • First visit to King Island by AIL representative to investigate possible resource.
    • Luck flown to Scotland for discussions.
    • Agreed that a company would be formed (Seaweed Industries Ltd) that would harvest and supply Bull Kelp from King Island, where the relevant license was already in place. A factory would be constructed and supply started by mid '74.
  • 1974
    • Mid year visit to King Island by John Sanderson (AIL) to check on progress.
    • Drying of weed initially facilitated by draping the weed over a barbed wire fence. This had progressed to the stage whereby one drying rack had been built and Strickland's Beach area by Mick Brodribb (Captain Seaweed).
    • Factory consisted of a shed at Currie wharf, a kiln made from power poles and a limestone crushing mill. The product was shipped in bags to Melbourne where it was repacked into 20 foot overseas containers for shipment to Scotland (process only realised two containers a year)
    • Luck approached (AIL) for a capital loan
    • John Sanderson revisited King Island two months later to check on further progress.
    • Luck advised more capital needed to build required facility.
    • AIL supplied more capital, with the default proviso entitling (AIL) to harvesting license.
    • John Sanderson visits again on 28/12/74
  • 1975
    • Netherby road factory site purchased off Harold Sizer
    • By April (AIL) had to exercise default option on loans due to non progress by Seaweed Industries Ltd.
    • AIL pays out all Seaweed Industries Ltd's creditors
    • An agreement is made between Webster Ltd. and AIL to form a 50/50 joint venture on King Island for the harvesting and processing of Bull Kelp. This venture was given the name Kelp Industries.
    • Kelp Industries was established on the 16th April 1975. Initial directors were Bruce Piggott, Anthony Ashbolt, Noel Hopkins, Peter Nelson, Michael Perry and John Sanderson.
    • David Allison was appointed as Manager.
    • Decided that King Island could maybe supply 1500 tonnes per annum. Accordingly a factory was designed by Ern Bryan of Webster Ltd. Ern Bryan together with ex Seaweed Industries Ltd. employees Frank Cullen and Mick Brodribb, were then 'let loose', to construct same.
    • Brian Bell commenced employment.
    • No production sold for the remainder of the year.
  • 1976
    • Factory restricted by drying space. Agreed to construct an additional kiln.
    • Kelp supply limited by use of contractors only. Apparent that more Kelp was available on the beach than first thought. Meeting held with local TFGA to promote the idea of self employed harvesters.
    • Kelp Harvesters Association formed.
    • Contract Kelp hanging operation ceased.
    • Mick Brodribb designed the first Kelp winch as he could see the need for a selective harvest to economise harvester operations.
    • Production for the year 773 tonnes.
  • 1977
    • David Allison replaced by Peter Silvey (UK) as Manager.
    • Mick Brodribb retires.
    • Drying racks expanded milling system redesigned and factory extended.
    • Factory burnt down 10th August causing estimated damage of $100,000.
    • Factory rebuilt and processing three weeks later.
    • Production for the year 2,441 tonnes.
  • 1978-1980
    • Andrew McKenzie (UK) replaces Peter Silvey as Manager. Andrew in turn is replaced by Frank Cullen (King Island) as General Manager.
    • Again, amount of weed available is dictated that factory must be expanded. Frank Cullen sent to Iceland to inspect Hans Binder Dryer used there for drying seaweed. Ern Bryan goes to Germany to inspect a possible shredder. Requirement for system that can produce 5000 tonnes of Bull Kelp per annum.
    • New design of factory completed. Changed from batch drying to continous system via a Binder Dryer, new design prebreaker installed. Total cost app. Au$600,000. All completed whilst still utilising the old system, with no break in production.
    • Alginate Industries Ltd. owners of Kelco International Ltd, taken over by Merck (US)
    • Container No 500 exported
  • 1982-1984
    • Sales suffered severely as a result of increasing global competition from Chinese alginate manufacturers.
    • Tonnage dropped to 1,700 tonnes.
    • Large El Nino in Eastern Pacific devastated Californian weed beds, raising demand for Bull Kelp virtually overnight.
    • Production increased to 2,850 tonnes.
    • Container No 1000 was exported.
  • 1985-1986
    • Californian weed beds recovered very quickly and sales slipped back.
    • Kelp Industries celebrates 10 years of production.
    • Production 2,850 tonnes
    • Escalating diesel cost forces factory to look for alternatives. After much research and investigation by Ern and Frank, the decision is approved to change from a diesel fired furnace to fuelwood fired. Capital cost is recovered from this in only eight months.
  • 1987-1990
    • General global economy strong and production reaches an all time high of 4,025 tonnes in 1988.
    • Realisation that high levels of production are being hampered by lack of drying rack space. Approval granted for aquisition of additional land and construction of additional racks. This brings total drying capacity up to 350 dry tonnes equivalent.
  • 1991-1994
    • Collapse of Russian economy severely impacts on sales.
    • Tonnage down to 2,700 tonnes.
    • Container No. 2,000 exported.
  • 1995
    • Restructuring of European alginate manufacturer results in increased requirement.
    • Sales increased to 3,700 tonnes.
    • Merck sold their alginate interest to Monsanto (US).
    • Frank Cullen retires as General Manager after 22 years service and is replaced by Peter Button.
  • 1996-1998
    • Although requirements remain high, production is hampered by dry weather from the El Nino effect in 1996, resulting in total yearly production of 3,095 tonnes. Normal weather patterns experienced in 1997 and 1998 resulting in production levels of app. 3,500 tonnes.
  • 1999
    • Requirement for Bull Kelp drops to restructuring of alginate manfacturer, divestments and further competition from Chinese producers. Annual production 3,200 tonnes.
    • Brian Bell retires after 24 years service.
    • Merck sells their alginate holdings to International Specialty Products (ISP)
    • Container No. 3,000 exported.
  • 2000
    • Kelp Industries celebrates 25 years of operation.
  • 2001-2003
    • Chinese competition still restricting sales resulting in lower price paid to harvesters and annual production of 2,100 tonnes in 2001. Further decline in sales resulted in production for 2002 of only 1,500 tonnes. Customer demand in the domestic market resulted in some surplus ISP stock being imported back to back up local stocks.
    • Peter Button moves on in mid 2003 to pursue his interest in the family farm. John Hiscock joins the Kelp Industry team as G/M.
    • Production for 2003 only 1,366 tonnes but news of an increased requirement to ISP for the next year is well received, as is a higher price paid to harvesters.
  • 2004
    • Andrew Ashbolt resigned as Company Secretary on 22nd November. Replaced by Wayne McIntosh.
    • Kelp Industries working towards ISO14,001 accreditation as time and resources permit.
    • Production total for the year was 1934 tonnes with price paid to harvesters at $405 per dry tonne.
  • 2005
    • Richard Searle and Andrew Ashbolt retired from Board of Directors in April.
    • Wayne McIntosh incoming Chairman.