• Sea Greens Farms Seeks To Shut Down the Maine Seaweed Exchange!

    We Need Your Help! Donate Now To Our Legal Defense Fund!

     

    UPDATE: Sea Greens CEO Mike Shim refuses mediation that would have swiftly resolved this matter with minimal legal expense to either side. Sea Greens co-owner Norma Villarina promises a protracted legal battle. Sea Greens has filed nearly ten (10) motions to drive up legal fees and has refused all efforts to discuss settlement and possible resolutions. Sea Greens has spent nearly $100,000 in legal fees to our less than $1,000 and continues to spend freely to intimidate us with frivolous lawsuits and motions. An egregious example of how big money is attempting to control the nascent seaweed industry.

     

    Fueled by the prospect of big profits, Bren Smith's Greenwave through its processing arm Sea Greens Farms (See, The Day, 4/15/18) has sued the Maine Seaweed Exchange, MSE Executive Director Trey Angera, and Springtide Seaweed (founded by seaweed innovator Sarah Redmond) for over $1 million. The complaint seeks damages for the fact Sea Greens failed in its bid to obtain an $800k MTI grant as well as injunctive relief. The injunctive relief sought would require both the Maine Seaweed Exchange and Springtide Seaweed to effectively cease operations in Connecticut.

     

    Note: This lawsuit was filed in Connecticut-- a state in which neither Springtide nor the MSE currently operate but feel is an important potential seaweed producing area. The MSE wishes to support farmers wherever they are located litigation such as this creates a chilling effect on our ability to support our industry without coercion.

     

    At the heart of the case is the ability of the Maine Seaweed Exchange to act as an independent industry support organization providing educational programs, advocacy, and industry infrastructure; while Greewave and Sea Greens work to take control of the farmed seaweed supply in the US.

     

    Click here to read MSE Executive Trey Angera's letter on this threat to our efforts to support our industry.

     

    The Men Behind Sea Greens

    Bren Smith

    Greenwave Founder

    A lawyer and former congressional staffer for Bernie Sanders, Bren Smith has founded Greenwave to recruit seaweed farmers to provide seaweed for Sea Greens with the promise of big returns from 3-D ocean farms. By linking a non-profit and for-profit company in a way that undermines competition while externalizing Sea Greens' farmer recruitment expense, Bren has created an enterprise that can convert charitable donations into personal gain. Bren lives in Connecticut.

    Mike Shim

    Co-Founder of Ocean's Halo, Venture Capitalist

    A lawyer and manager of the venture capital firm True North, Cos. Mike Shim was a Greenwave board member with Bren Smith and was a founder of the Greenwave-Sea Greens "partnership." He has ties to a leading Korean seaweed company. Mike lives in California.

    Norman Villarina

    Managing Partner Industry Capital

    Managing nearly $2 billion around the world, Norman has helped promote the Greenwave-Sea Greens partnership as an investors dream with tremendous upside. Norman lives in California.

    Todd Jagoutz

    GM Sea Greens

    A former employee at Seafax (a seafood industry debt collector), Todd is the only Sea Greens' owner that lives in Maine.

  • YOU CAN HELP!

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    All donations go to fund our legal defense. Any surplus funds will be applied to scholarships for students in our seaweed farmer certification program. Either way, you will be making a difference.

  • Letter from MSE Executive Director Trey Angera

    Dear Friends and Supporters,

     

    Since the Maine Seaweed Exchange has been formed only a few short months ago we have been working exceptionally hard to support the fledgling seaweed industry in Maine. Our work has included:

    • Creating a Seaweed Farmer Certification Program with over ten new seaweed farmers on the way to certification;
    • Hosting the Practical Seaweed Farmer Conference in July 2018;
    • Sponsoring the Maine Seaweed Fair in July 2018;
    • Organizing Seaweed Work Groups bringing industry and regulators together to determine best practices and assure food safety;
    • Actively represented seaweed aquaculture on the Maine Seaweed Council, and with regulators, and industry partners;
    • Creating the New Seaweed Farmer Program by which we offer a turn-key way to enter the industry with lease support, training and all required gear;
    • Creating the Seaweed Angel Program by which donors can support new seaweed farmers;
    • Networked numerous seaweed industry participants so that everyone has access to seed, know how, training and processing.

     

    These efforts have been well received and the MSE is recognized as an emerging leader in supporting the seaweed aquaculture industry in Maine and beyond.

     

    All this has been done with the help of our partners. The MSE pays no salaries or other expenses-- we don't even have a bank account. We work with industry partners that support our initiatives and take the lead in doing the important work that needs to be done.

     

    Our quick success is threatening to those trying to exploit Maine seaweed farmers by locking them into long-term supply agreements that deny them a living wage. One of these companies is Sea Greens Farms, the for-profit affiliate of Greenwave.

     

    I am familiar with how Sea Greens works and its goals as I was one of their first hires as a consultant to set up their processing facility and build out their supply chain and effectively managed their operations until August of 2017.

     

    I have worked in the sustainable food and agriculture industries over 25 years. I have been involved in seaweed for over ten years. I have built and managed USDA and FDA processing facilities for organic meats as well as seafood. After I took some time off from my career to teach in inner city schools through Teach for America, I missed working in the sustainable food industry and was looking for the right opportunity. When I heard about Bren Smith and Greenwave I immediately applied for a job. I was not offered a job at Greenwave, but was offered a position with the new for-profit division of Greenwave called Sea Greens Farms. I accepted the position because I felt Bren Smith and I shared a mutual vision of a company that supported regenerative seaweed farmers by paying living wages to farmers and selling high quality and nutritious seaweed that support local communities and health. Our core premise was that we would never own farms or exploit farmers for profit.

     

    In this, I was grossly deceived. Bren Smith formed Sea Greens with two silicon valley venture capital and private equity moguls-- Mike Shim and Norman Villarina. Together these partners saw an amazing opportunity to leverage the success and resources of Greenwave to create commercial opportunity. I was told Google and Patagonia wanted to buy "a lot" of seaweed and that we needed a way to meet that demand, and a for-profit company was the best way to do that.

     

    So off I went to help change the world. Based on our projections I knew we needed to source significant amounts of seaweed. The only place this could happen was in Maine-- at least until other states could start growing and scale. I traveled to Maine and met every farmer I could, and buying as much seaweed as I could. It was through this process that I met Sarah Redmond-- a seaweed industry innovator and founder of Springtide Seaweed one of the largest seaweed farms in Maine. I immediately saw the value of her work and offered to assist her, ultimately becoming a partner in Springtide.

     

    I then worked diligently to organize as many seaweed farmers as possible to form a sort of seaweed farmer co-op with Sea Greens being the customer. The goal was to support local farmers with a living wage and make sure Sea Greens had enough seaweed to supply our customers. I was optimistic.

     

    After I advised the folks at Sea Greens that I had invested in a seaweed farm, you could see the wheels turning in their minds. They assumed I wanted to be a seaweed farmer for the money. Of course, those in the seaweed industry know that is not the case! I wanted to be part of a food system that was good for communities, the planet and produced healthy safe food. It was at this time there was a "shift" in strategy though. Mike Shim and Norman Villarina felt we could get the "huge returns" their investors required only if we controlled supply. Not through a co-op as I suggested, but by loaning the farmers money for seed or gear and then requiring them to sell to Sea Greens or lose their farms. The same system that has exploited poultry and other farmers for decades. They wanted to be the next Tyson or Monsanto-- as they also wanted Greenwave to supply the seed the farmers had to use.

     

    Next thing I know, I am no longer involved in farmer meetings and the corporate office with the help of former Seafax employee Todd Jagoutz was taking over farmer supply agreements. The leadership team from California (Mike and Norman) flew to Maine for a series of meetings to lay the groundwork for a network of "seaweed sharecroppers" in Maine. I had no idea what was happening.

     

    The scheme in retrospect should have been obvious. Greenwave, as a nonprofit, was able to recruit and train farmers using public and philanthropic dollars. Greenwave then coerced these farmers into selling to Sea Greens at a predetermined price who then sold the seaweed for a profit. Essentially, Sea Greens was a profit-driven company that had found a way to outcompete the existing industry players by using Greenwave's access to non-profit dollars to set up a subsidized farmer recruitment and training program. Brilliant-- but not what I signed up for, arguably illegal, and certainly unethical. They then shifted to lock in farmers through long-term supply agreements with the promise of financial support, and voila big ag had arrived in Maine to take over the seaweed industry.

     

    During this time, I advised Bren Smith of a grant program that MTI was offering. I suggested we fund our co-op idea in part through this grant. As a nonprofit grant mill, Greenwave jumped on the opportunity. Until they found out you had to be a Maine based company and you could not use the grant for salaries and similar overhead. Greewave still drafted a letter of interest but it was determined we would need to find a Maine based partner, and Sea Greens should take the lead on the project.

     

    When Mike and Norman took over the farmer program with Todd, they also secretly formed a Maine subsidiary of Sea Greens just to apply for the MTI grant. They then modified my suggested grant application to apply for funds to purchase items like refrigerated trucks. Of course, the idea was that these could then be used in Connecticut to support the then under construction Sea Greens processing hub. Again, these savvy investors were working on a scheme to game the system and deceive farmers and ultimately Maine taxpayers.

     

    In the end, I and Sarah Redmond submitted a farmer supportive grant application to create the Maine Seaweed Exchange through Springtide Seaweed that was ultimately funded. We have been working hard ever since to help build and support a vibrant seaweed aquaculture industry in Maine.

     

    The folks at Sea Greens terminated my consulting agreement, refused to pay me, kept equipment of mine they agreed to pay for, and after I filed suit to recover my consulting payments and equipment they sued me, the MSE and Springtide. All with the intent to stymie our efforts to advance this industry.

     

    Sea Greens offered to settle this litigation upon the following terms:

     

    We [Sea Greens] are willing, however, to engage in settlement discussions with you tomorrow in accordance with the following (which is not meant to be exhaustive of the terms of such settlement, which would naturally include additional terms such as confidentiality, noncompete, and non-disparagement clauses):

    1. You follow the requested state court injunction for five years, which includes making no contact with Sea Greens’ suppliers and not participating personally or through any business entity whatsoever in the Maine Seaweed Exchange ( “MSE”) or any like seaweed exchange. This would also include having no role, position, involvement, connection with or investment in the newly formed Atlantic Ocean Aquaculture LLC. You will completely cease any and all attempts to compete with Sea Greens and to establish a competing seaweed exchange within the five year period.

    2. You withdraw from the MSE as a member, owner or in any other way you are involved.

    3. You divest completely from Springtide (but [Sarah] Redmond can continue to do business as Springtide and, if you divest, Springtide can remain in the MSE).

    4. You release any and all claims against Sea Greens concerning the alleged disputed invoice for your alleged consulting services via TIKAL[my consulting company], and release any and all claims concerning the alleged equipment.

    5. If you do the above we would also would waive our damages claims in the state court action, provided, however, that we will not waive any award of fees and costs already entered by the federal court or to be awarded on the current motions or any Rule 11 motion filed in the federal action. You will agree to comply with the court’s awards within a set timeframe in full.

    6. Finally, we would submit our executed settlement agreement to the state court for entry as a stipulated judgment, which would include a contingent money judgment against you in an agreed sum to come into effect in the event you breach the settlement agreement (after an opportunity to be heard in the state court concerning any alleged breach).

     

    As you can see, this settlement offer has only one goal: assure I do not work in the seaweed industry.

     

    I remain committed to this industry. The fact that Sea Greens and Greenwave feel threatened by my involvement suggests to me that we are on the right track to creating a seaweed aquaculture industry that respects farmers, their families, our communities and our shared marine resources.

     

    I am glad to discuss this matter in more detail and answer any questions you may have. Kindly e-mail me at trey@seaweedexchange.com to set up a time to chat.

     

    Note, I will also be creating a video for our crowdfunding effort at which you can donate to our defense fund here.

     

    Thank you for all your support. I am confident that in the end, we will be able to continue our work and fulfill the promise of a vibrant seaweed aquaculture future!

     

    Peace,

    Trey

    5/1/18

     

    NOTICE: This web page contains my personal opinions and recollections. All statements are truthful to the best of my knowledge and belief.

    Please support our legal defense and our efforts to support seaweed aquaculture and our local marine communities.

    Remember, all donations go to fund our legal defense. Any surplus funds will be applied to scholarships for students in our seaweed farmer certification program. Either way, you will be making a difference. Thank you!