Skip to content

Vancouver Island winery using sea kelp nutrient to limit their need for irrigation

Kelp use another way Comox’s 40 Knots Winery promotes sustainability

40 Knots Winery has long been recognized for its green initiatives.

The Comox Valley winery is committed to environmental sustainability and social sustainability, and owners Layne Craig and Brenda Hetman-Craig are continually seeking methods to produce their products in the most environmentally conscious ways possible.

Their latest venture is as natural as it is surprising.

40 Knots Winery uses sea kelp as an organic feed. It is fermented, turned into liquid form, then fed to the grapevines as a natural nutrient.

“We use it in our disease management spray program, so it adds a bunch of micro-nutrients and secondary macro-nutrients that the vines need to develop their own defences,” said 40 Knots Winery sustainable solutions analyst Tori Durrett.

Layne was introduced to the kelp idea through Yasir Syed, the founder of ViviGro Sustainable Solutions.

“He is well known on Vancouver Island and the West Coast for his ability to create effective, natural products,” explained Layne. “He introduced us to the kelp and the derivations of kelp products that he has.”

The result has been vines that are healthier than ever, and so independent, the need for any additional irrigation on the farm is negligible.

“We dry-land farm here at 40 Knots because the roots go down so deep - 15-20 feet - that we don’t need to irrigate,” said Layne. “The health of the vines that we have created by using these products… instead of driving a machine around, burning more fuel, we can push it through our irrigation lines, just drip it out onto the plants and make them happy.”

Layne said when they took over 40 Knots, the absence of beneficial insects was evident.

“Over the first couple of years, as we began converting the place off of chemicals, the natural habitat of worms and ladybugs really just didn’t exist. There was nothing. So in the first two years, the quality of the grape went way up, but the yield was way down. Since then - from 2015 to 2023, which seems like forever - we have increased yields by somewhere around 254 per cent, give or take. We have decreased water consumption from 12,000 cubes (cubic metres) down to under 1,000 cubes every year, and that is including the winery and everything.

“The last two years has been exclusively winery because we haven’t used any irrigation. Even in the hot spells. Nothing. The health of the vine, the health of the soil, with 12 earthworms every square metre, and ladybugs everywhere… the health and the regenerative value of everything we have done, with something as simple as kelp.”

Layne said the initial decrease in yield was expected.

“Taking the plant off of something it became dependent upon really pissed off the plant - they weren’t happy. But the quality of the grape went up almost immediately.”

He said the success that the initiative has achieved was beyond his expectations.

“At some point, there was just a blind leap of faith that I put in Yasir and ViviGro to do this - cross your fingers and hope the decision is right. But still, today, we are still increasing (yield).”

The yield increased by 13 per cent in 2022.

“And the silliest thing is we are actually using less and less (water) every year, because of the health of the soil and the health of the vines,” said Layne. “So creating that health, we continue to see upticks in yield potential and decrease in farming costs. All the while not putting chemicals into the ground that 650 metres away go into the Salish Sea.”

Yield is up, costs are down, and the environment is being protected n the process: a true win-win-win scenario.

Their efforts have resulted in achieving GreenStep Sustainable Tourism Platinum Certification in 2015, a certification that is assessed every two years.

“In 2014, when we took over, we began the conversion to holistic, traditional, sustainable and organic farming - basically getting back to the roots of farming, without using chemicals that can harm humans, animals and the environment,” said Layne.

READ MORE: Island’s kelp forests battle climate change, offer crucial environmental resources

Be Among The First To Know

Sign up for a free account today, and receive top headlines in your inbox Monday to Saturday.

Sign Up with google Sign Up with facebook

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Reset your password

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

A link has been emailed to you - check your inbox.

Don't have an account? Click here to sign up