Green means green to local man

By Geoff Lee

July 28, 2016 12:00 AM

Matt Dugas, in the foreground, is diversifying his Lloydminster fluid hauling and oil related rental properties by harvesting Rockweed in his home province of Nova Scotia, with business partner, Jeramy Boudreau, left. Dugas is a familiar figure at the Lloydminster Servus Centre when he's in town. He will be back in October and is looking for investors.

When the tide goes out along the eastern Atlantic shores of Nova Scotia, Matt Dugas literally and figuratively sees green.
Olive green is the colour of Rockweed or ascophyllum nodosum that he and his business partner Jeramy Boudreau plan to harvest and sell by the ton in a new venture, Maritime Rockweed Ltd. based in N.S.
The long-term plan to harvest and process Rockweed into fertilizer, animal feed supplements and other products for people is also an alternative employment opportunity for Dugas, the company’s CEO and 50 per cent owner.
His fluid hauling and rental property businesses in Lloyd have taken hits right along with the price of oil.
“Right now, it’s survival mode with everything the way it is,” said Dugas, a man with oil-related holdings and ties in Lloydminster, .
“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul—it’s pretty slow.”
The Nova Scotia native began to look at Rockweed harvesting a couple of years ago to augment his income.
“I like to diversify, so I was looking at something that was kind of sustainable and viable,” he said.
His first idea was to invest in land and grow grapes for wine making, but due diligence convinced him that industry has too many costly and unpredictable hurdles.
Maritime Rockweed is expecting provincial approval within days for a harvesting lease for up to 1,000-km of coastline, including islands from Digby to Canso N.S.
“There’s only one other company that’s really big in it and we’re going to be the second largest in N.S. by land mass any way,” said Dugas from N.S.
“There are four lease areas along that coastline, so we’ve broken them down to leases and sectors.”
Maritime Rockweed expects to hire 35-50 local harvesters using the traditional method of hand harvesting by rake from small vessels.
“We’re only approved at the hand harvest method, but there’s a study going on right now with a mechanical harvester,” said Dugas.
He said that’s being done with Sydney Crosby’s NHL signing agent,Tim Cranston, through Rockweed’s first buyer of rockweed in Maine.
“If the method is approved, we’ll have access to this mechanical harvester, so we really want to watch how many harvesters we want to hire,” said Dugas, noting there’s two year test period.
He said mechanical harvesters that have been used in NS in the past, make the process a lot quicker.
Rockweed processing in Maine is a $20 million a year business with rockweed in high demand.
The N.S. company has a purchase commitment for 4,000 wet tons a year.
“Right now, our buyer is 24 truckloads behind on back orders,” said Dugas, who just got back from Maine where he moved some processing equipment across the border.
“Our end goal is to process it into many different facets, but just to get ourselves off the ground and to make some money, the quickest way is just cutting it, harvesting it and bringing it over to Maine.”
Maritime Rockweed has recently rented a drying facility south of Sheet Harbour N.S. as the margins for dry rockweed are higher than the wet weed shipped to Maine.
Dugas said the federal government has given Maritime Rockweed, which has a harvesting licence,  the OK to harvest while they wait for the provincial leases for the shore land.
Rockweed can be made into organic kelp meal, which is an excellent source of micronutrients and beneficial plant growth promoters.
It contains more than 60 naturally-chelated minerals and essential elements the fast-growing sea plant absorbs from the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the North Atlantic.
With his knowledge of Western Canada, Dugas said he thinks the regional agricultural sector here could be a new market for rockweed.
He’s also on the hunt for investors, including interested persons in Lloydminster where he returns to frequently to check on his oil-related businesses.
“We’re looking for investors—we’re selling private shares at $10,000 for each preferred level and a common level,” he said.
Dugas said the return would be 150 per cent over three years.
He said he’s approached a few people in Lloyd about investing into the company and has had some interest.
“With the economy, there a lot of people holding on to their dollars to ride this through,” he said about the downturn in the oil sector.
“We’ve only had a couple of investors put some money in for us, so we are running on a real shoestring budget.”
Maritime Rockweed has launched a generic website just to let people and potential investors know they are developing something new, and a product’s brochure is in the works.
Dugas will be back in Lloyd this fall to pitch his dream to investors and further hedge his business bets on opposite sides of Canada.
He plans to relocate close to his hometown of Clare, N.S., but keep all of his Lloydminster interests and his home, since he said he loves Alberta and expects the economy to rebound.

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