News / Seaweed couple vow to rebuild after blaze

Margaret Blance wanders through the remains of the seaweed factory, a business she and husband Michael have spent the last 12 years building up. Pic. Millgaet Media

A SHETLAND couple said they were determined to rebuild the seaweed business they created from scratch 12 years ago after a fierce blaze destroyed their factory and its entire contents in the early hours of Thursday morning.

An investigation has been launched into how the Böd Ayre Products factory at Hamnavoe, in Lunnaness, burst into flames just before 2.30am.

Owners Margaret and Michael Blance were woken in the night and went out to investigate using a torch as they were in the middle of a power cut after thunder and lightning knocked out around 300 homes in the islands.

Mr Blance discovered smoke billowing out of the factory and told his wife to call 999 while he rescued a quad and a forklift, the only two surviving items in the building.

Appliances from Brae, Bixter and Scalloway attended, and spent five hours extinguishing the fire using 16 sets of breathing apparatus and three hose reel jets.


There were no casualties, but the couple were advised to prepare themselves to evacuate their home next door as sparks carried by the wind threatened to ignite their roof.

The Blances are devastated by the disaster, which has struck just as their business has started to show signs of taking off, having worked unceasingly creating a market for a little known product now recognised for its health giving qualities.

“I always thought it took Amazon 10 years to make it and we were just starting to take off when this happened,” Mrs Blance said.

They had just received their biggest ever order for 7,000 litres of liquid seaweed fertiliser from a farm in Aberdeenshire and a large order for their new range of edible seaweed products.

On Thursday morning the couple expected to receive the first labels for their latest edible product Seaweed Sprinkles, a trademark they registered just two days earlier.

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They have also been preparing for the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards ceremony in October after two of their products were shortlisted.

“We are devastated, but we shall just have to rise above it. I just hope that we can find some premises and hire some equipment to keep going. We have shareholders we are responsible too,” Mrs Blance said.

One issue the fire investigation will look into is their recently recommissioned wind turbine which went back into service just one month ago after the 100mph Christmas gales in Shetland put it out of action.

The turbine would have been producing electricity in the strong wind that night, but the power cut would have meant it could not feed that power into the grid.

The wind turbine was part of a major investment in the business, which has involved looking into seaweed based cosmetics as well as edible products and seaweed farming. “The turbine enhanced the fact that our edible seaweed was produced sustainably, not using fossil fuels,” Mrs Blance said.

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