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Sustainable biomass utilisation

We take our corporate responsibility seriously and seek to shift the paradigm in marine resource utilisation through the commercialisation of our innovative solutions.

Macroalgae like Laminaria hyperborea (or “stortare” as it is called in Norwegian) are among our planet’s largest and most underutilised renewable resources. Ingredients extracted from L. hyperborea are highly beneficial and can be used to improve human and animal health in medicines, cosmetics, food and more. In Alginor, we believe that renewable resources need to be the starting point for future industries, and that L. hyperborea offers unique possibilities if utilised properly and fully, without any resource waste.

Norway is blessed with an enormous 60 million tonnes standing biomass of L. hyperborea growing in majestic underwater kelp forests along the Norwegian coastline. The biomass’ rapid regrowth offers us a unique opportunity to create a sustainable industry that safeguards our planet’s health and meet some of our resource needs, without leaving a damaging and disproportional footprint.

As a marine visitor, we strive towards achieving and maintaining a symbiotic relationship with our ocean’s kelp forests. Our harvesting method, Hypomar, has been developed with assistance from the Bellona Foundation, and is being developed, designed and tailored to harvest kelp with minimal negative interference or impact to marine life and the seabed.

Today, somewhere between 150,000–180,000 tonnes of L. hyperborea is harvested annually from the Norwegian biomass. The annual harvest is equal to approximately 0.25 %–0.30 % of the total Norwegian biomass and well within the limits of sustainable harvesting. The biggest challenge in today’s industry is not related to the biomass and its conditions for sustainable regrowth, but how the biomass is treated and utilised post harvesting. Due to extensive use of formaldehyde after harvesting and during processing, the harvested biomass is only utilised for its alginate content, and the remaining biomass of up to 85 % is discarded as waste.

Because the biomass is massive and its regrowth rapid, one could claim that the current practice is sustainable and that it can continue as is for the foreseeable future. In Alginor, we think differently. We know that L. hyperborea is much more than just alginates, and we believe that any natural resource — renewable or otherwise — should, if plucked, be utilised to its maximum extent, and always with an aim to prevent resource waste and squander. Our goal is to dramatically increase the utilisation ratio of the harvested biomass up to 100 %, with zero formaldehyde and no downstream waste from our facilities and vessels. Our methods are based on green chemistry and mild process conditions, and our processes are being designed and developed to facilitate optimal ingredient extraction and downstream biomass utilisation. Our aim is to utilise L. hyperborea’s fully, based on its true potential, and thereby establish a sustainable kelp industry rather than an alginate industry.