MyBlueCity is going digital | Interview #6 | Caviar Portugal
Caviar Portugal – A sustainable way of producing a world known delicacy
Ana Ferreira (BioMarine Community Manager)
Although caviar is not a part of Portuguese typical cuisine, it is a world known delicacy that is highly dependent on decreasing sturgeon populations. Hence, aquaculture represents an optimal solution to face this challenge and guarantee a sustainable provision of caviar worldwide. With this in mind, a Portuguese team from the University of Algarve decided to be the first to produce caviar in Portugal. The company is known as Caviar Portugal and uses circular economy approaches to provide sustainable caviar from Portugal… to the world.
Producing caviar was a wild, but interesting idea
Paulo Pedro was working with water and air quality analysis when he received a curious request to test a water sample for fish production. Although the water was not good… the idea that came with it was (well, at least interesting!) – the production of caviar in Portugal! Paulo explained that he “had a passion for aquaculture and was already collaborating with the University of Algarve in similar projects, and the prospects of producing a species with high value seemed worth the try”. After studying the most beneficial business model, the team (then composed by Paulo Pedro and Valeriy Afilov) decided to order the first batch of sterlet eggs (a species of sturgeon – Acipenser ruthenus – that is smaller and easier to maintain than other species of sturgeon that reach bigger sizes.
The rocky first steps
At first, the sterlets reproduction didn’t seem to be an easy task as they needed cold temperatures to thrive and the temperatures in Algarve are… well… the reason why half the Portuguese population migrates to this south region during summer time. However, with the right installations, the excess heat was mitigated. After a tribulated journey from the Netherlands to Portugal, the first starlet eggs arrived in Algarve safe and sound, and the tests for their growth and reproduction began, with great support from CRIA, an Entrepneurship Centre from the University of Algarve.
Circular economy to decrease costs and environmental impacts
The whole business strategy was carefully planned to decrease costs and environmental impacts, starting with an aquaculture setup based on circular economy approaches - “Our pilot station is a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) that consumes less energy and water. For most of the year, we’re able to provide the necessary conditions for the sterlets to grow without any temperature manipulation, except to induce reproduction”. Also, Paulo says that “we’re experimenting hydroponic systems to produce plants to break down the ammonia in the water and decrease waste as much as possible”. However, circular approaches don’t end there, as Paulo told us that they are “currently analyzing the best way to use the bi-products of these fishes (e.g. skin, cartilage, meat, etc), increasing the value of their production and again… reduce waste”.
Upscaling the pilot station
After building and having good results with the pilot station, Caviar Portugal was already able to obtain the final product, but not yet in the needed quantities of the market. The next big step for Caviar Portugal will be the upscaling of their current pilot production, which is already under preparation, but still, dependent on further investment. Paulo continues to explain that “this important step is still dependent on funds that we are currently searching and negotiating. The goal will be to implement this upscaled station for caviar production and further ahead implement an adjacent hydroponic system”.
Meanwhile, Caviar Portugal has other projects up their sleeves
Besides the production of Caviar, Paulo told us that they are aiming to expand their business to other species and services: “While we are preparing the upscaling of caviar production, our previous experience allowed us to gain great knowledge in optimizing aquaculture installations and for this reason we are being challenged to develop a project involving the production of other fish species. Also, we are starting collaborations in Kyrgyzstan (Central Asia) for the development of aquaponic systems to produce both fish and plants in remote mountainous environments”.
I would say that Caviar Portugal is heading for a busy 2019!
Want to know more info about Caviar Portugal?
Click HERE or contact the team through the BioMarine Community!