SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Tom Roth traded fishing for farming. He's always finding new ways to use farmed and wild seaweed.
"People get excited when they see something that's good for them," he said.
His latest kelp-based product: sunscreen.
"It's all-natural. There [are] no chemicals. There's no plastic involved. We're really trying to be true to the environment."
Roth also is one of the providers of edible sugar kelp in the state, the focus of a recent report from the Island Institute.
It sheds new light on what the industry means for Maine.
It claims nearly 1 million pounds of wet seaweed - both farmed and wild - is harvested off US shores each year. Over half of that comes from Maine alone.
Over the last five years, Maine's edible seaweed harvest has exploded, an increase of more than 2,000 percent.
But what does that mean for Maine's economy?
Well in 2019 the industry contributed $13.4 million dollars to the state's economy.
By 2024 the farmed seaweed industry in Maine alone is predicted to boost harvests by nearly 300 percent.
Roth said he saw the potential for this industry to grow 15 years ago, and that's why he changed careers.
"The people that were involved in the industry started 40 years ago," he explained, "are still in business."
And now it appears more people are seeing gold in the green.
Roth employs seven people full-time and hires 40 self-employed harvesters to help when the kelp is pulled out of the water in the spring.
He expects to hire more people in the near future as his business, VitaminSea Seaweed, grows.
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