Atlantic sea cucumber: Small supplement with big benefits
Posted on November 09, 2021 | By Nicole Noseworthy | 0 Comments
The mission? To make the decidedly unattractive sea cucumber easier to consume. The vision? A sea cucumber product designed for non-traditional consumers.
A staple in China for centuries, the sea cucumber is rich in antioxidants. And there’s a rich natural supply of it right here in Atlantic Canada. Nova Scotia-based partner companies Atlantic Sea Cucumber and AKSO Marine Biotech are trying to making it more palatable for non-traditional consumers to reap the health benefits of sea cucumber.
According to Atlantic Sea Cucumber’s general manager, Lincoln Ellsworth, when CEO Sam Gao immigrated to Canada from China, the sea cucumber hadn’t been harvested here to the same degree as it had been in the Pacific. Gao saw the opportunity to close this gap in the market. In the summer of 2016, Atlantic Sea Cucumber opened their processing plant—a shared facility with AKSO Marine Biotech, who have been in business since 1983. Atlantic Sea Cucumber does the processing, while AKSO does the research and development of the products.
Here’s Ellsworth describing what happens at the company’s processing plant, located in Hacketts Cove, Nova Scotia: “Sea cucumber is harvested, … taken to a plant to get frozen, and we buy the frozen product. It comes down here [to the Atlantic Sea Cucumber processing plant], we cut and trim it once it’s thawed, then we cook it and dry it.”
Though the product is also sold in its dried form, Atlantic Sea Cucumber and AKSO want to make it more convenient to consume the health benefits from sea cucumber. “AKSO takes the product we [Atlantic Sea Cucumber] make, grinds it up, and sells it as a capsule,” said Ellsworth. He explained that with dried sea cucumber, there’s a three-day rehydrating process that needs to take place before it can be consumed. This process is eliminated with the creation of the capsules.
In addition to antioxidants, nutrients such as polysaccharides, saponins, and omega 3 can also be found in the sea cucumber; AKSO is studying the additional benefits of these nutrient-filled capsules.
Looking to the future, Ellsworth says the partner companies are hoping that once the current studies are complete, the products will be even more sellable, and they can expand their capsule product line to include more natural health products where sea cucumber and other nutrient rich products are combined into a single capsule.
Sustainability is imperative to this venture, Ellsworth explained, mentioning that they only use wild caught Atlantic sea cucumber (rather than farmed). Because they rely on a natural supply, they will only get the sea cucumber from reputable sources. There is an abundant stock of sea cucumber in Atlantic Canada, and it is crucial that the stock remain plentiful.
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