Meeting the Team behind VOYA: Paul Scanlon13/11/2015
How long have you worked for VOYA and explain what you do?
I have worked with VOYA for the past five years. I harvest seaweed, and deal with orders and packing for the numerous hotels and spas that we supply to in over 37 countries. As you can imagine our warehouse is a busy place to be, it’s a hands on approach and at VOYA the entire team all go beyond our job roles as we are still quite a small company in terms of staff numbers. As well as doing orders and stock take, I do a lot of general maintenance too as my background is carpentry.
Like all the seaweed harvesters I was trained to seaweed harvest by Mick Walton who has a vast amount of knowledge on the subject, Sligo’s surroundings and everything VOYA.
I originally got the job from speaking to Mick Walton, Mark Walton’s father while he was putting seaweed on his award winning vegetable patch near Strandhill as I walked by! When I started working with VOYA it was at the back of the Walton family home, then we moved to a larger premises with a warehouse and offices where the company has grown and grown. Our workforce has also expanded and the majority of us that work in head office and the warehouse are from County Sligo! I’m really looking forward to our next premises move, as we still are growing and will need the space.
What types of seaweed do you harvest, when and how?
We hand harvest all the seaweed here at VOYA all year round, myself and the other seaweed harvesters go out in any and all conditions to collect the best quality seaweed the coast has to offer. It’s a bit more complicated than people would think. Laminaria is harvested following certain moon cycles which is about once a month, we need the tide to go way out to reach the lower shoreline, and you often get quite wet. We wear high waders and have learnt to be careful when wading or walking over rocks. It involves a lot of physical lifting and bending so having a low centre of gravity helps.
Heavy storms can do damage to the Laminaria in the winter months, and it is the most difficult to harvest due to rough Atlantic seas, and high tides. County Sligo gets some of the largest surf in the world and has been attracting a lot of international interest through big wave surfing etc. Here’s a video that gives you a good idea of the swells we get here;
Fucus Serratus and Bladder wrack can be harvested more easily and all year around, when the tide is out. You have to cut at the stem leaving the root intact. It takes 24 months for the seaweed to grow back to maturity again so we move on from area to area so our seaweed grows back for the future. Seaweed spaghetti as we call it only grows in the summer months really and it dies off in winter so we stock up in summer and again it’s found in-between the Fucus and Laminaria and sometimes we even find it growing in rock pools.
Tell us something people don’t know about seaweed?
The seaweeds of the west coast of Ireland are the freshest and cleanest in the world. Seaweed has so many benefits and uses you wouldn’t expect as well as being great for your skin. It is also used as a food, in food supplements, land fertilizers and liquid feed extracts. You can even download local seaweed recipes, although I haven’t tried eating it myself! www.irishseaweedkitchen.ie .
Do you ever see wildlife while harvesting?
Yes all the time, seals on the reef, a variety of birds, for example sea gulls, herons, and wild geese. One of my most memorable experiences was finding an injured baby seal washed up in a field while going out to harvest, Neil Walton from our sister company VOYA seaweed baths is involved with Seal Rescue Ireland a charity VOYA sponsors and so we had the best person to ask for advice, thanks to Neil .
What reaction do you get when you tell people you are a seaweed harvester?
People are generally very interested to know to that I’m a seaweed harvester, they ask when and how we cut and where the seaweed is then transported to in the world. Local people are also interested when you say you work with VOYA as the company as grown rapidly over the last 15 years and is really well known here.
Do you use VOYA products?
I wouldn’t be big into skincare really but I do use the Squeaky Clean shower gel and Invigorating Seaweed Soap they smell so unique and fresh and are all unisex. I’ve used Cast Away, facial wash for years now and as a shaving foam.