Seagriculture Speaker

Seagriculture USA

6 - 7 September 2023

Portland, ME, USA

Commercial scale drying and milling: a shared use model

Mitchell Lench, Founder & CEO, Ocean's Balance, USA

About the speaker:

Mitch Lench is the CEO and founder of Ocean’s Balance. He has been working on solving problems using market-based solutions before the term impact was popularized.  He held senior level positions at large institutions including Fitch Ratings, Credit Suisse, and Bank of America. He also founded Treetops Capital, which was one of the early impact investment management firms that was awarded one of the top 50 global managers by ImpactAssets for 4 years straight. 

Company info: 

Ocean's Balance is a Maine based vertically integrated seaweed business that is scaling up regenerative seaweed farming and advanced processing to create high-value functional ingredients for people and pets as well as delicious consumer food products. 


Lessons learned in the first few months with new kelp dehydrator and creating value added products.


1. When was the first time you got involved with seaweed and why?

Prior to founding Ocean’s Balance, I managed an impact investment fund management company that was focused on investing in microfinance institutions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.   I was getting tired of traveling around the world and I was looking at establishing an impact fund that was focused on sustainable aquaculture and fisheries in the US. As I was working on launching this fund I started to learn more about seaweed and all of its potential uses as well as the ecological benefits.  I was so excited about the potential of seaweed that I pivoted from managing an investment fund to building an operating company focused on this sector.   Kelp farming was just getting started in 2016 and Maine was at the epicenter of this movement so it felt like I was in the right place at the right time.  

2. What is your view on the seaweed industry in the US in 2030?

I expect there will be significant growth in the US seaweed industry over the next 7 years.  Seaweed as an ingredient in human and pet food should continue to grow rapidly as well as when the cost to farm kelp decreases with technological advances the applications will widen substantially to areas such as biomaterials, biostimulants, animal feed supplements, etc.  The primary hurdle for these markets to incorporate seaweed into the formulation is related to the scale of production and costs of the raw material.   The technology to build sophisticated biorefineries for advanced processing is already available so the industry needs to work on bringing down hatchery and farming costs in order to open up these large markets.  I would expect by 2030 we will see biorefineries in Maine and Alaska.  

3. What will you be talking about at Seagriculture USA 2023?

One of the key bottlenecks in the US farmed kelp industry, which is similar in some other geographies of the world is drying large volumes of biomass at harvest.  My presentation will focus on our recent purchase of the first large scale commercial kelp dryer in North America including lessons learned.  I’ll also discuss the new entity we formed called Seaweed Farmer Services, which provides drying and milling services for seaweed farmers in Maine.