Planktonic in Trondheim has developed a revolutionary fish feed for the aquaculture industry. The product has enormous international market potential, and the company has received significant funding from innovation Norway and the EU on several occasions.
Barnacles are a type of crustacean and there are enormous numbers of them all around the world. They attach themselves to rocks along the shoreline, ships or other structures. Planktonic uses barnacle larvae as feed for marine fish species, prawns and scampi.
“We are the only ones in the world who can supply live marine plankton as fish feed on an industrial scale. We have developed a method of harvesting barnacle eggs, which we then freeze and store on a large scale. Fish farmers only need to defrost the eggs in seawater so that they hatch and the larvae swim out and become natural food for the fish in the tank”, explains Rune Husby, CEO of Planktonic.
He says that they have patented the use of barnacles as a fish feed, and are in the process of obtaining a patent for cryopreservation technology, which is their method of freezing.
The right support system
In 2008, the founders Håvard Aakerøy and Nils Tokle began working on the idea of using plankton, a natural food of fish, as fish feed. They contacted Innovation Norway to move forward with the technology development and marketing work.
“We have met many talented employees at Innovation Norway who have seen the potential of what we are doing. This really has been decisive in terms of finding the right support system, and that we have succeeded in formulating projects that have received grants and loans”, says Husby.
Finance adviser at Innovation Norway Trøndelag, Ann Kristin Lund Aaker, says that the business idea is patented, unique, sustainable and provides great financial gain for fish farmers and the company itself. It improves fish health and addresses major socioeconomic challenges.
“The feed responds to certain challenges that are present in the farming of marine fish species such as halibut, cod and ballan wrasse in Norway, and a number of foreign species such as seabream and seabass, where a lot of energy and resources are used on fish that die during the farming period. It also enables the farming of species that are not possible to farm at present.”
In addition to advisory services, loans and grants from Innovation Norway, the company has received financial support from the Research Council of Norway.
Breakthrough in the EU
Planktonic has received support from EU funding schemes on several occasions and received more than NOK 40 million in total. They received the last amount of NOK 14.5 million so that they could launch the solution on the global market.
“Among other things, the money will be used to develop more feed products based on barnacles, and to investigate the possibility of large-scale production abroad. The goal is to achieve a significant global market share”, Husby emphasises.
Innovation Norway is working to get more Norwegian growth companies to apply for funding from the European Innovation Council (EIC). Making the cut is difficult, but companies receive good help from our regional EU advisers when it comes to writing applications and preparing for interviews.
“There is no doubt that Innovation Norway’s help was a decisive factor when it came to securing EU support”, says Husby.
Planktonic convinced the jury in Brussels with groundbreaking innovation that has a global market and a significant effect. In addition, they demonstrated a very motivated team that does not give up.
Great global market potential
It is natural for Planktonic to invest internationally. They are able to deliver the same service and product abroad as they do at home. Marine fish in Norway and Europe, as well as prawns in Asia and South America, are their main markets. Innovation Norway’s offices have assisted the company with input and valuable contacts.
“You have to have a local resource person who knows the culture, language and not least who has in-depth knowledge of our field of expertise. You are in a vulnerable position and do not get many chances to prove your worth. It is therefore important that you have a close relationship with the customer, provide follow up and don’t give up even if you meet challenges along the way”, says Husby.
The company is the market leader in deliveries to ballan wrasse and lumpfish in Norway, Wales and Scotland, as well as the sought-after sushi fish yellowtail amberjack in Europe.
“The goal is to scale up the supply of raw materials throughout aquaculture, further develop production equipment, develop feeding protocols in the most important markets and build an organisation that grows with the tasks it undertakes. The right funding and the right people will take us there.”