Vetik – Discovering the potential of red seaweeds
Ana Ferreira (BioMarine Community Manager)
Red seaweeds have been studied for their enormous potential for a myriad of uses, such as cosmetics, functional foods, etc. Moreover, the advances in biotechnology widened the range of such uses. A perfect example of this is VETIK, an Estonian Startup created in 2017, that is developing innovative processing technologies to extract red pigments from red seaweeds! Allying years of experience in harvesting seaweeds and a science background in biotechnology, Vetik is advancing with new and exciting projects!
We talked to Valmar Kasuk, one of the Founders of Vetik and member of the BioMarine Community, about the company and all their new projects and ambitions!
[CLICK HERE to access the PDF document of the interview]
An idea born from red seaweed
Faced with an excess of red seaweed growing in Estonian waters, two seaweed harvesters with years of experience realized that they needed to come up with an idea to put this resource into use. By partnering with two Estonian scientists, and after some investigation, an interesting solution was found – “We realized that we could extract red pigment from the seaweeds and use it as a natural alternative for food, or even more interesting, in cosmetics! Moreover, these natural alternatives could also have bioactive properties, such as antioxidants. It’s not only more sustainable, but a healthier solution for the market!”, explained Valmar. After validating this idea, Vetik was created to make it happen!
The team and structure that is making it all possible
Vetik’s team has a total of 6 members, each of them with the necessary background to push the startup forward – “Tanel Ilmjärv, as the CEO and me as COO, oversee the business and production development. We both have life science background, which allow us to understand the science we are dealing with”, explained Valmar. Also, the team counts with “two members with a biochemistry background and two seaweed harvesters with 20 years of experience, trawling boats, a private port and all the necessary equipment needed for industrial harvesting of seaweeds”. The team counts with the important collaboration of Universities, competence centers and biotechnology companies for knowledge, equipment and helping hands, crucial ingredients to start a biotechnology company from scratch.
A natural solution for the cosmetic industry
As we all know, most of the cosmetic colorants are unhealthy, synthetic and petroleum based. Vetik proposes a natural and healthier alternative red colorant extracted from red seaweeds with added value, as Valmar explained – “Instead of being harmful, our red pigment has skin rejuvenating properties. This enables to make natural lipsticks and other cosmetic products that would be beneficial to our skin and health”. Also, co-products are being sought out to add more value to the company – “As the pigment is only a small part, and the seaweed biomass is full of nutrients, polysaccharides and active molecules, the exploration for additional products applicable in food, cosmetics, pharmaceutics, agriculture, feed will be also interesting”, Valmar added.
2018 was a crucial year for Vetik
During 2018, the team gave important steps for the years to come. Valmar told us all about it – “The Blue Bio Value accelerator program in Portugal was definitely one of the last year’s highlights. Through thorough business plan development and constant pitching practice it enabled us to win the 20.000€ first prize in the Prototron competition, out of 287 startups”. Also, he didn’t forget to mention the important contribution of BioMarine – “Together with BioMarine Convention/MyBlueCity 2018, we had over 30 meetings in Portugal with scientists, entrepreneurs, investors which gave us many key contacts and a lot of insight!”. With all this experience, Vetik is now ready to jump for more ambitious goals!
A pilot production plant is now on the horizon
After dedicating the first years to building a solid basis for the company, establishing important contacts and constantly participating in mentorships, workshops and accelerator programs in business development, Vetik is getting ready for an important step – “In the end of this year we want to have the pilot production plant assembled and colorant prototype proven for application in lipsticks, creams and other cosmetic products. In 2020 we want to demonstrate the pilot production, finish colorant analysis, receive the necessary certificates and obtain the first paying customers. In 2021 we want to start with upscaling”, concluded Valmar. For the team, the goal is very clear – “We aim to become the primary natural red color providers for the cosmetic industry, while valorizing the excess biomass of the red seaweed to bring even more benefits out of it”.
Finally, Valmar has a call to action to our BioMarine Community – “If anyone has interesting collaboration ideas, we are always open for discussion!”. And we will keep you posted on the latest developments about Vetik!
Want to know more info about Vetik?
Click HERE or contact the team through the BioMarine Community!