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Seagriculture 2018

7th International Seaweed Conference

6-7 November, Galway, Ireland

Meet your conference speakers

Kate Burns

Managing Director of Islander Kelp Ltd, IRL

"Novel uses of Marine Biopolymers"

Kate Burns is founder and Managing Director of Islander Kelp Ltd., growing and processing kelp as a food product on Rathlin Island and is also Principal of Burns Consulting, specialising in business and natural resource planning and. Kate has a Masters in Rural Development from Queens University Belfast, a Diploma in Community Development from University College Galway and a BSc. Hons. from the Open University UK.

In addition to ‘Islander® Kelp’, Kate’s consultancy work has included preparing area based strategies for 'fishing dependent communities' under the EU Axis IV Programme and rural development planning. From 2009 to April 2013 she was Director of Community Initiatives at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, establishing programmes to assist the fishing and seafood industries deal with change and become sustainable. 

 Prior to 2007 Kate was Chief Executive of the cross border local authority organization, implementing INTERREG IIIA. Kate came to the ICBAN position from seven years in a local authority position in Northern Ireland where she headed up the Rural and Economic Development Programmes.

Kate is on the Board of Belfast Met, the Agri-Food Research Institute for Northern Ireland, and the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority. Other interests include rowing, sailing, playing music, and spending time with her grandchildren.


It can be argued that slow progress in Europe regarding the growth of a viable algae farming industry is the product of the wrong market focus and it being research driven, rather than commercially driven.

Inside the the noise surrounding research, test farms, and the economics and development of viable models for kelp farming, Islander Kelp have established possibly Europe’s first fully private and operational commercial kelp farm. This success is based not on science, which of course is an important part, but on the market, and the need to devise a model that works with a small budget. The business started cultivation in 2014 and turned a small profit in 2015, growing year on year since then.

Kelp cultivation is expensive, and so the market focus needs to be on high value products and keeping cultivation as low cost as possible. As most cultivation in Europe is being led by the science side of research institutions, there is a lack of engagement and awareness of the markets with good commercial potential for high value kelp, and equally, cost models for cultivation may be unnecessarily high. Involving coastal stakeholders with vision, skills, and equipment, is critical, in establishing low cost, high value cultivation models.

It can be argued that the resulting lack of progress on policy can be blamed on the inability of enterprise support agencies and research institutions to present, promote and support viable models for kelp farming. As such the huge backlog of applications for kelp farming licenses in Ireland for example, while inexcusably delayed, may also partly be the result of poor commercial business and practical planning which could address questions and barriers to progress.