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Ocean Approved Kelp Noodles and Cut Salads

How a “water rat” CEO developed these frozen wild plant products.
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Growing up in Maine, Tollef Olson, CEO of Ocean Approved, is no stranger to the ocean. “I’m a real water rat,” he says. “When I was younger, I traveled extensively, making it around the world at least a dozen times. I’d do marine salvage, we’d go treasure hunting and pull up shipwrecks.” Olson returned to Maine and ran a restaurant for ten years in Bar Harbor but, he says, “I’ve been commercial fishing on and off all my life.”

Olson fishes in the coastal waters of Maine with a strong commitment to sustainable practices. For the past decade, he has been cultivating Bangs Island Mussels in Casco Bay, considered some of the best because they spend their entire life in the water column, suspended above the bottom of the ocean.

Just three years ago, he expanded his company to include Ocean Approved, which markets ready-to-eat kelp products, like Kelp Salad Cut and Kelp Noodles (pasta of the sea), made from wild plants cut by hand from the sea floor by Olson and his partner Paul Dobbins. “I found kelp in our coastal Maine waters years ago. I made the mistake of trying to buy some and they all had food coloring and preservatives. So instead, I’d be out diving and I’d cut some kelp,” he recalls. His kelp products are frozen fresh, not dried and are 100 percent natural with no dyes or preservatives added. Ocean Approved products are available at brownetrading.com and harborfish.com or at numerous Whole Foods Markets in Massachusetts and Portland, Me.

By combining his love of the water with his love of food, he’s created two companies that allow him to share the bounty of the ocean with customers across the country. His day-to-day life is never the same since he works with Mother Nature. “Everyday on the water presents something new,” he notes. “No two sunrises are ever the same.” –Denise Shoukas

Denise Shoukas is a regular foodspring.com contributor and is the author of foodspring’s food forager blog.

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