An Interview With Matts Johansen, Chief Executive Officer Of Aker BioMarine

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Below is our recent interview with Matts Johansen, CEO of Aker BioMarine:

Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Aker BioMarine?

A: Aker BioMarine is a biotech innovator and Antarctic krill-harvesting company, dedicated to improving human and planetary health. As the world’s leading supplier of krill, Aker BioMarine provides a powerful and health promoting source of nutrients from the pristine waters of Antarctica. The company develops krill-based ingredients for nutraceutical, aquaculture, and animal feed applications. It’s fully transparent value chain stretches from sustainable krill harvesting in pristine Antarctic waters through its Montevideo logistics hub, Houston production plant, and all the way to customers around the world.

Aker BioMarine products at a glance:

Superba Krill oil is a next generation phospholipid-complex, with omega-3s and choline. The natural combination of nutrients offers a range of health benefits to match the needs of health conscious consumers. Powered by phospholipids, Superba Krill ensures that omega-3s EPA & DHA and choline are delivered to parts of the body that need them the most, such as the brain, heart, eyes and liver. And Superba Krill oil is backed by science. In fact, the team at Aker BioMarine is continually expanding its pipeline of exciting science and innovation projects that will advance the krill industry like never before.

QRILL Aqua, a nutrient-rich feed ingredient made from Antarctic krill, helps improve aquaculture efficiency. A sustainable source of protein, omega-3 phospholipids, feed attractants and astaxanthin, the benefits of this ingredient includes increased appetite, enhanced growth, stronger immune system, increased survival rates and better filet quality. The QRILL Aqua family helps improve the growth and health of fish, shrimp and other species in aquaculture. What fish eat is of great importance for fish health and feeds containing krill give many benefits and solve challenges faced in aquaculture.

QRILL Pet is a 100% natural product, made only from whole Antarctic krill. A functional ingredient for pet food, QRILL Pet provides a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, marine proteins and the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin. It offers great benefits for pets including healthy organs, joints and fur. When developing this unique product, Aker BioMarine kept their focus on the needs of pets and pet food formulators. Knowing that many pet food formulators look for new and innovative solutions, QRILL Pet delivers many beneficial nutrients, yet is easy to include in pet food recipes.

Q: What is krill oil and what makes it unique?

A: Krill is a species of zooplankton invertebrate that exist in every ocean around the globe. Living in the pristine and unpolluted waters of the Southern Ocean, Antarctic krill are virtually free of environmental contaminants and toxins. Antarctic Krill, also known as Euphausia Superba, are among the largest of the 85 known krill species and make up one of the world’s largest single species marine biomass. About the same size as a paper clip, krill move in huge swarms throughout Antarctic waters and spend most of their life feeding on microscopic algae. They play a key role in the oceans ecosystem, being an integral part of the survival of many marine species.

There are numerous types of omega-3s on the market, but not all are the same or offer the same benefits. Krill oil is a unique option for a few key reasons. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential for a wide range of health benefits for your heart, eyes, liver, skin, and brain. Krill is also bound to phospholipids, allowing the body to absorb and deliver the fatty acids to the places that need them the most. It also contains choline, an essential nutrient vital for nerve signaling, liver and muscle functioning and more. Finally, it contains astaxanthin, a natural antioxidant that gives krill oil its beautiful red color and protects the product from oxidation, eliminating the need to add preservatives.

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Q: You’ve received an ‘A’ rating from the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP); could you tell us more about this?

A: Sustainability is an ever growing topic among consumers and businesses today, and as it continues to grow, we will hopefully see more and more companies making positive changes. In fact, the global demand for environmentally friendly products is on the rise, making sustainability a topic that should remain core to any business; it is the only way to create long-term value, especially in the nutraceuticals space, where Aker BioMarine exists.

For the fifth year in a row, Aker BioMarine received an ‘A’ rating from the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), meaning its krill fishery is in “very good condition.” SFP is an independent non-profit organization that evaluates the sustainability of global fisheries. Each year, the SFP releases a Reduction Fisheries Sustainability Overview which analyzes reduction fishery stocks worldwide. According to the most recent report, three percent of the total catch volume of the reduction fisheries in the analysis comes from stocks classified as “very good condition.” As in the four previous editions of this report, this corresponds to a single fishery: Antarctic Southern Ocean Krill.

Q: How is technology related to sustainability?

A: There is no question that technology and sustainability go hand in hand. Technology and big data, in particular, are areas in which Aker BioMarine is heavily investing in to advance its sustainability leadership. The ambition is to be a driver for a more transparent, data-driven fishery management regime for krill in Antarctica, which could also serve as a model for better practices in other fisheries worldwide.

To protect the Antarctic fishery from undesirable environmental impact, Aker BioMarine decided early on to invent a new way to catch krill with a fishing system called Eco-Harvesting™. This technology platform brings krill live and fresh aboard our vessels, while at the same time singling out unwanted bycatch and minimizing environmental impact.

In 2019, Aker BioMarine built a new environmentally-friendly, state-of-the-art krill harvesting vessel called Antarctic Endurance. Designed to be energy efficient and equipped with a host of environmentally friendly technologies, the engineers and crew built this vessel to be 30% more environmentally efficient compared to other fishing trawlers.

Most recently, Aker BioMarine is utilizing ocean data drones, machine learning, and other technologies to improve operations that will positively align with the company’s sustainability efforts.

Q: How is Aker BioMarine utilizing big data?

A: We believe that big data is the future of sustainable fisheries management, giving us better decision-making tools to help positively impact the industry. Aker BioMarine is digitalizing its harvesting and manufacturing operations to further improve the company’s sustainability efforts. By using live data and machine learning, we are able to increase our positive handprint while minimizing our carbon footprint.

Aker BioMarine just launched an unmanned solar-powered ocean data drone (called the Sailbuoy) as part of its operations in Antarctica. The Sailbuoy is two-meters long and is equipped with echo sounder and environmental sensors to collect data from wherever it is deployed, in real time. It was built to be robust and to survive the tough Antarctic conditions, but it was also designed to be small and unobtrusive to avoid disturbing the local wildlife. All of the data collection carried out by the drone has a carbon footprint of zero.

By helping to minimize the time and resources looking for krill, the use of the ocean data drone significantly reduces the financial and environmental costs of harvesting, and the data collected will provide a more accurate picture of the size of the biomass, benefiting the wider scientific community and the krill fishery as whole.

Q: What global challenges are you trying to solve? Why is it important to solve them?

A: We believe in a world where all have access to quality nutrition and good health without compromising the future of our planet. To that end, we are taking on global challenges each and every day and are committed to bringing positive changes to the industry. Our mission is to improve human and planetary health and we have created various pillars that address each of these priorities.

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all, at all ages, is essential to sustainable development and we are educating others on this. In fact, we have adopted the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to help lead our business. We are continually raising awareness about the importance of omega-3s and the prevention of lifestyle diseases and are proactive in discussing the ramifications of low omega-3 levels, as well as solutions.

Another way we are contributing to human health is by leading the way in science, research and innovation in the krill oil industry. In fact, our science team is venturing into new territories like never before to explore all that krill oil has to offer from a health benefits standpoint. We support organizations dedicated to making the world a healthier and better place for all. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an integral part of Aker BioMarine’s culture and as an organization, we have a purpose that is higher than profits.

There is no question that global challenges such as loss of biodiversity, resource scarcity and climate change will impact and drive the future of the ocean. Creating long-term worth and success in a global fishery requires a business approach that values both opportunity and responsibility. We are not just harvesting krill in the Antarctic in a sustainable way — we are helping to improve the health of the oceans. That has been our mission since day one and will continue to be our goal as our business continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of our partners around the world.

We own and operate our entire value chain from catch to capsule so traceability and transparency are imperative to our business. Our integrity and standards are raising the bar in the dietary supplements industry.

Q: What can we expect from Aker BioMarine in the future?

A: With a growing population, it has never been more important to make healthy food and nutrients available while also keeping our planet’s ecosystem healthy. 70% of the planet is covered by oceans, but only 2% of the food consumption and 0.5% of FDA approved pharmaceuticals comes from the oceans. As a unique and diverse system, the ocean plays a critical role in the world’s future. We will continue to invest in technology platforms, partnerships and research to further protect the ocean and environment while providing the best ingredients to consumers and farmers alike across the globe while continuing to harvest in the most sustainable way.