MyBlueCity is going digital | Interview #16 | Polar Algae
Polar Algae – Macroalgae from beyond the arctic circle
Ana Ferreira (BioMarine Community Manager)
By combining local, national and international expertise on entrepreneurship and biotechnology, the young and innovative team working at Polar Algae is creating a new industry in the north of Norway based on…polar seaweeds! This company is bringing international knowledge to boost the local economy by analyzing and extracting valuable compounds from local seaweeds. We talked to Caroline Haukeland and Edel Brynjulfsen, founder and co-founder of Polar Algae respectively, and they told us all about their new projects!
Identifying the potential of polar seaweeds
Both Edel and Caroline have a vast background in entrepreneurship and after selling their own business, they realized the hype that was starting to appear around seaweeds for the development of more sustainable products. As Edel explained – “We realized that the ecosystem around us was able to provide pristine shore full of seaweeds, although not much has been done in Northern Norway with it! This triggered our curiosity to start exploring this local, but unexplored potential!”. With no background in biology or biotechnology, both Edel and Caroline began to attend specific events on the topic not only to gain more experience, but mostly to validate their idea and the need of the industry – “Soon after we travelled to Copenhagen for the Seaweed Symposium where we made important contacts that validated our idea and gave us the final push to move forward. Back in Norway, we applied for support to start the business and received immediate green light from our local County. Polar Algae became a reality in 2016!”.
Building a whole new industry in the North
Knowing that historically the resources in Finnmark have been collected locally, but processed somewhere else, the team wanted the company to be more than “just” a raw material provider – “We want not only to harvest and dry the seaweeds, but to go even further and build a laboratory with the needed experts to process them. With this, we can add more value to our offer and get as much ripple effect as possible to build a new industry here in the north. We want to create a new field of jobs and inspire young generations to be a part of it!”. As Caroline stated - “we want to bring international knowledge to boost the local economy!”.
The team and the new projects
Despite the experience in entrepreneurship, the team quickly realized that a bigger team with other expertise was needed to grow their project – “We involved two local early stage investors, Trine Bredal Hauan, representing the investment and incubator company Pro Barents, and Jeanette Moland in Hammerfest Næringsinvest. They both represent investment funds and have valuable experience in developing industry in the north of Norway". They also involved Stig Ove Hjelmevoll with a PhD in molecular diagnostics from The University of Tromsø. With the team assembled, Polar Algae quickly started to approach important players in the market that could support and leverage their business. As Edel explained “As we wanted to go beyond harvesting and drying seaweeds, we focused in getting international expertise in biotechnology to start exploring the potential of 6 seaweeds species for their bioactive compounds. To do this, we have established a collaboration with Algaia, with whom we are analyzing the compounds of our seaweeds and their possible applications in different industries, such as agriculture and cosmetics”. After this first analysis, the company works with Algaia for another important step – “After all the tests we are down to 3 interesting seaweed species and the next steps will be to test the upscaling process and connect with the right players in the industry”.
An active role in the BioMarine Events
To extend their partnerships, Polar Algae is not only a member of the BioMarine Community but is also an active member of the Blue Bioplastic Consortium. As the team shared with us “Being a part of the BioMarine network and participating in the different events has been very valuable for us to get access to the industry knowledge and establish important partnerships for future collaborations”. Edel adds that “In reality, the BioMarine events are not just conferences, but rather a place where we are actively working and making business. It has allowed us to meet many people from around the world, and even from Norway!!”.
The greatest achievements so far and next steps
One of the greatest achievements so far for the company, and as the team shared, “was definitely the contact established with Algaia. This will allow us to do the development of our products and take very important steps towards the growth of the company”. Also, the team highlighted an important remark “This partnership shows that it is possible to get international knowledge to create value locally. By bringing this international knowledge to our local ecosystem, we can show the young generations that our local resources have more potential than just being harvested and sent away. A new industry and jobs can be created!”. Finally, the team explained that right now they are moving in three main directions: “we are advancing on the seaweed production and its processing through the future implementation of a local facility. At the same time, we are defining what are the seaweed compounds with the greatest potential to bring them to the market”.
We will follow their steps towards these goals and count with the BioMarine Community to keep you posted!
Want to know more info about Polar Algae?
Click HERE or contact the team through the BioMarine Community!