Algal feed firm eyes up US oyster opportunities

Jan 01, 18 Algal feed firm eyes up US oyster opportunities

By: Rob Fletcher

TomAlgae, the feed firm specialising in the production of freeze-dried algae to be used as feed in shrimp and oyster hatcheries, is looking to crack the North American oyster market.

The US produces 140,000 tonnes of oysters a year, making it the world’s third largest producer of the bivalves – just behind Japan (300,000 tonnes) and South Korea (280,000 tonnes), but double that of France (70,000 tonnes).

TomAlgae, which cultivates diatoms (Bacillariophyceae sp.) at its production facility in Belgium, recently made impressive inroads into the South Korean oyster market, where a growing number of hatcheries are now using the company’s key bivalve product Thalapure Mollusca. And it is now hoping to emulate this success in the US, in part by providing one of the 11 ICX (Industry Connection) prizes – the winners of which were announced yesterday – at this year’s Fish 2.0 competition.

Oyster larvae are fed diatoms for the first four weeks © TomAlgae

Oyster larvae are fed diatoms for the first four weeks
© TomAlgae

“North American is the third largest oyster producer in the world,” explains William van der Riet, CEO and founder of TomAlgae. “And by providing an ICX prize to two oyster producers we hope that we can not only help them to grow their businesses by sharing our expertise in algae, but we can also learn more about the US market from them – the knife cuts both ways.”

The winners of the prize were Panacea Oysters of Spring Creek, Florida, which is restoring oyster farming in Apalachicola Bay by creating a unified brand and guaranteeing purchases to farmers; and Pensacola Bay Oyster Company, another Floridian firm, which is producing premium oysters for the half-shell market, with the goal of restoring the Gulf Coast’s environment and working waterfronts.

William van der Riet, TomAlgae’s CEO, on the left, and Dr Victor Chepurnov, chief scientist and manager of application and development at the company’s diatom production unit in Belgium © TomAlgae

William van der Riet, TomAlgae’s CEO, on the left, and Dr Victor Chepurnov, chief scientist and manager of application and development at the company’s diatom production unit in Belgium
© TomAlgae

“Live algae is currently used to feed oyster larvae for up to four weeks in US oyster hatcheries,” William explains. “We aim to scale-down the use of this live algae at this critical stage and encourage hatcheries to work with our product – freeze-dried, phototrophically produced diatoms – so that the hatcheries can focus on the production of oyster larvae, not of algae.”

Reflecting on the ICX prizes, Fish 2.0 founder and executive director Monica Jain said they exemplify what the competition is all about – growing the sustainable seafood industry through connections and learning.

“We’re grateful to these forward-thinking prize givers for offering their time and resources to these ventures and to the field,” she said. “Over the past years, these prizes and the partnerships that result from them have led to extraordinary growth acceleration for the winning ventures and the prize givers. These are golden opportunities.”

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