Delft, The Netherlands-based Veramaris has officially opened its USD 200 million (EUR 177.6 million) facility in Blair, Nebraska, allowing for commercial-scale production of its algal oil for use in aquaculture feed.
The new product utilizes a proprietary process to produce a unique strain of marine algae containing both EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. According to Veramaris CEO Karim Kurmaly, the product is the only one of its kind.
“Our algal oil is the only one on the planet with both EPA and DHA at a high concentration,” Kurmaly told SeafoodSource.
The presence of omega-3s is a key selling point of the new algal oil. Surveys the company performed across thousands of consumers showed that the omega-3 content of salmon is a factor when purchasing the product. Omega-3 content in aquaculture feed for fish has been a key issue as the sector evolves and expands, with studies showcasing the health benefits of eating a diet rich in omega-3s. However, a finite supply of wild-caught feed sources means an alternative source of omega-3s is needed to keep up with demand.
Veramaris aims to be a key part of statisfying that demand. The new production facility, according to Kurmaly, is the result of years of research and development on the product and on the processes needed to scale it up to commercial-size. The company has already produced the marine algae at pilot facilities, and salmon that have been fed primarily with Veramaris’ algae-based oils are already on the market in Germany and France.
“We will ramp up production step by step from today onwards, to meet the growing demand,” Kurmaly said.
The first container of the oil was set to depart from Nebraska to Europe soon after the company announced the official opening of the facility. Once the new facility is at full production capacity, it will be able to produce enough oil to be roughly equivalent to 1.2 million metric tons of wild-caught fish, according to Kurmaly.
“We’ll be able to produce 15 percent of the global demand for the global salmon industry,” he said. “We will ramp up production step by step from today onwards, to meet the growing demand.”
Veramaris is a joint venture between DSM and Evonik, with DSM providing the algae strain Schizochytrium that makes up the new algal oil.
“In Veramaris, we have combined the competencies of two strong partners to make an innovative contribution to the healthy nutrition of the world’s growing population, without putting any further burden on our oceans,” Christian Kullmann, chairman of the Executive Board of Evonik, said.
The new facility in Nebraska is an Evonik facility that has been retrofitted to produce the algal oils at a commercial scale.
“We’ve retrofitted it and changed parts of the equipment and included a downstream process to enable it to produce natural marine algal oil through fermentation,” Kurmaly said.
The process, according to Veramaris, leaves the final product free of any sea-borne contaminants, and with a EPA and EHA omega-3 content that is twice as high as fish oil.
The company has already seen interest from a number of aquaculture operations, Kurmaly said.
“We’ve got a healthy order book I should say,” he said.
As time goes on, Kurmaly expects that the new oil will allow aquaculture operations to differentiate their products and develop further branding opportunities for salmon producers.
“I think that branding is quite exciting for the retail segment,” he said. “You can start to differentiate and even make some label claims as to the level of EPA DHA Omega 3s that are in the salmon.”
Irrespective of the future of the aquaculture feed market, Kurmaly said the company is excited and a bit relieved to finally reach the finish line.
“It certainly is a relief,” Kurmaly said. “Two years goes by very quickly, but while you’re in the two years, doing all the hard work and research, it’s never ending.”