From organic waste to protein and omega-3s for aquaculture feeds

Published on 2022-06-03

Startup Story

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Ingmar Høgøy, founder and CEO of GreenTech Innovators, talked about how their solution leverages the circular economy model to extract value from waste substances.


I have been working for more than 30 years with circular solutions in aquaculture and fisheries. Many years ago I used to work with the processing of salmon and at that time there was no waste management solution. We just throw the waste into the sea. 

We realized that if it was treated properly, the discards we threw away contained high-value protein and omega-3s.

After that, I became an employee of a cutting-edge company, and we set up a plant to produce concentrated protein and fish oil. We turned an environmental problem into high-value products such as animal feed. 

Later I participated in other startups and developed high-value products such as special feed and protein also for human consumption. Processing of by-products from fisheries and aquaculture is now a sound industry in Norway, and most of the rest raw-material are utilized.

Afterwards in my career, I used to travel from my home to work and I passed trucks of food waste going to incineration. I saw the smoke from the chimneys polluting the air and leading to greenhouse gas emissions: I realized that this can not be a sustainable solution and food waste management is a global environmental problem.

Just like waste from salmon can be turned into high-value products, also food waste can be utilized in a better way than today's commonly used waste solutions

The core of GreenTech innovators: the fermentation

I was able to use some of my aquaculture experiences to understand what was best for GreenTech, but some characteristics were fundamentally different. 
Fish contains a lot of protein and omega-3s, while food waste is low in protein and oils but high in carbohydrates. 

To understand how to turn carbohydrates into protein and omega-3s, we need just to study how this happens in nature: through fermentation.

In fact, with fermentation by microbes and microalgae, it is possible to convert carbohydrates into proteins and omega-3s.

With our solution, we are simply converting something that we have too much of - food waste - into something in global demand: omega-3 and protein. 
We are upcycling food waste to feed by using biotechnology and fermentation.

Analyzing the impact: GreenTech vs common waste management solution

All the commonly used waste management solutions like landfills, incineration, composting and biogas have greenhouse gas emissions. Landfills are responsible for 11 % of global Methane emission, 70 times stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and incineration sends all the carbon dioxide captured in the photosynthesis back to the atmosphere without being utilized. 

We are wasting one-third of the food we produce: 1.3 billion tons annually. Incineration for example gives 140 kgs of carbon dioxide per ton of food waste while our solution gives 4.4 kgs per ton of food waste. 

In addition, GreenTech makes it possible to use waste - through circular economy practices - reusing it as feed ingredients by replacing fish meal and fish oil.

GreenTech's shareholders, stakeholders and target

When we started Greentech Innovators in 2018, our strategy was to look for the best industrial partner, and we found it in BIR, the second-largest waste management company in Norway. They are shareholders and we have access to raw materials, production facilities and offices. In this way, we have access to good infrastructure. 

For what concerns stakeholders, feed producers - in particular within the aquaculture industry - are looking for more sustainable feed ingredients. Within the salmon industry, for example, feed is responsible for 70% of the carbon footprint in salmon production. The commonly used feed ingredients like fish meal and oil can not increase as fish stocks are overutilized. 

In addition, increasing soy production gives environmental concerns to the rainforests.
The only way to increase omega-3 production is to produce microalgae. 

We can support the waste management companies with new and more sustainable waste management solutions.
Is it possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution of water and air, by simply using more circular waste management solutions? And our strategy is to have joint ventures with local waste management companies globally.

We also have one of the largest salmon producers as a partner in an R&D project and they believe in our approach to increasing omega-3 and protein production. He also provided us with the knowledge on how to improve carbohydrate utilization for fermentation, and we increased the utilization by five times. This is now our core technology.

Future plans of GreenTech Innovators

We are located on the west coast of Norway and the city of Bergen. In this area, salmon production is very high because it is an important business for this region. That means that we are close to our primary market for aquaculture feed.

But we are now going to finalize our pilot plant and then we are going for international expansion. We already have international partners in large markets where we are planning to scale our solution.

The common problem of startups: finding investors

During covid, it was not easy to get investors involved in scaling our solutions. So to all investors that want to contribute to more sustainable solutions, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing food production just contact me for more detailed information.

About the author

Ingmar Høgøy

Founder and CEO at GreenTech Innovators