Born and raised in Maine, Tollef says he has salt water in his blood. After stints as a commercial fisherman, captain of international marine salvage expeditions, and seafood restaurant owner, Olson entered the world of aquaculture in 1994, conducting site surveys for aquaculture operations along the Maine coast. Concerned by his observations of rapidly declining populations of sea urchins and mollusks due to over-fishing, Tollef founded Aqua Farms, LLC in 1998 to cultivate rope grown mussels utilizing technology adapted from European aqua farms. Over the course of many years he witnessed the dramatic increase in overseas cultivation and consumption of edible seaweed and recognized the opportunity for cultivated seaweed in North America.
Ocean's Balance is his second Maine seaweed cultivation venture. Tollef, his mussels and cultivated seaweed have been variously featured on Martha’s Stewart’s TV show, The Food Channel with Alton Brown’s Good Eats, and written about in the New York Times, Boston Globe, The Japan Times, NBC's Today, Seafood Source, Gastropod, The Portland Press Herald and Maine Magazine. He is also a Senior Advisor at the Macroalgae Nursery and Research Cluster in the University of New England's Center for Excellence in the Marine Sciences.