Most of the growing number of alternative feed ingredient producers have been popping up in locations such as the Netherlands and Nebraska, but UK-headquartered SuSeWi has planted its algae production facility in the Moroccan desert.
“We go to locations with ideal conditions to grow algae in a natural way, where there is lots of sun energy, oceans with upwelling conditions, large open areas in which to build and diverse species of algae," CEO Keith Coleman told IntraFish. Coleman comes from a venture capital field with experience in the Middle East and the United Kingdom.
"An excellent lead indicator for ideal conditions, as in Morocco, is where there is abundant oily fish, where the water is naturally algae-rich and fed by nutrient-rich upwellings.”
One of the world's largest algae ponds
The pilot plant in Morocco is operational but has only reached the end of its trial period. However, the company plans, with the help of government subsidies, to build one of the largest algal raceway ponds in the world, spread across some 8,000 square meters.
It has not received any government subsidies yet but public body Innovate UK granted SuSeWi and Plymouth University £433,000 (€493,213/$544,112) in October 2017 to support the technology's development.
At this point, SuSeWi (whose name was derived by combining the elements of sun, sea and wind) is not disclosing production data.
Why is it different?
Several factors differentiate this alternative ingredient producer from others, including the ability to use a completely natural growing system by incorporating local algae; selecting algae species that fish already eat; existing locally in the fishing grounds; and being a whole substitute for fishmeal.
"Of course there are industrial needs for mixing, blending and emphasizing different species for fish diet, but we have the lipids, omega-3 and complete amino acids which give an attractive protein profile," Coleman said.
Eventually, the company plans to scale up to produce 50,000 metric tons when the commercial facility kicks off.
How expensive will it be?
SuSeWi is still evaluating the market and speaking to different clients, which will help establish where it positions itself on price.
However, the firm has already secured an agreement with an undisclosed fish feed producer to buy or sell portions of SuSeWi's future production.
"What we do know is this is a high-value ingredient, plus it has the benefits of being sustainable in a world where consumers are demanding sustainable end-products," Coleman said.