Algalif Iceland – Leading a Young Industry
From their home in Iceland, Algalif is leading the way in supplying high-grade natural astaxanthin products.
Algalif’s mission is to help solve the nutritional needs of current and future generations through the development and delivery of sustainable, high-quality microalgae ingredients. As well as producing astaxanthin products, Algalif also possesses a portfolio of immune-health ingredients under the Nutramunity™ Beta-Glucan (NBG®) brand, for use in food, beverages, nutraceuticals, sports nutrition, and personal care products.
The business is part of the international ingredients company Sana Pharma Holding, which was founded in 2002 to work in the ingredient manufacturing, food supplements, medical devices and over-the-counter medicines sectors. Sana Pharma has presences in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, and a team of more than 150 employees. As part of that group, Algalif is able to provide high-grade natural astaxanthin products from microalgae, including ingredients and finished formulations.
“We’re a biotechnology company using and selling microalgae products since 2014. We’re based in Iceland after starting out in Norway and have mostly been focused on selling one ingredient called astaxanthin,” explains Orri Bjornsson, Algalif Iceland’s CEO. “The business has been growing fast since the beginning. We had a $10 million turnover in 2020 and expect to achieve $13 million this year. We have 40 employees here in Iceland and have started investing $31 million with an expansion project starting this spring making us the biggest astaxanthin producer in the world.”
Algalif has committed itself to providing a reliable supply of high-quality, pure, sustainable astaxanthin from algae. The company’s specialised indoor production process has been designed for pure Icelandic water and renewable energy to deliver high yields of premium quality.
“We grow our algae here in Iceland. We use renewable energy for everything we do. We have an abundance of fresh water in Iceland, unlike some other companies working with microalgae,” Bjornsson tells us. “We have very high-quality production processes, with strong levels of control at every stage. So when all of that is brought together with the fact that Iceland is a green country, most of our customers prefer to buy from us because of the clear quality of the product for use in a variable environment.”
Indeed, Algalif’s Icelandic location is a crucial part of the company’s identity. The country provides the perfect starting point for Algalif’s algae cultivation in its astoundingly pristine environment, free of contaminants and pollutants, as well as access to abundant, pure water and a continuous supply of renewable energy.
This last advantage is critical, as astaxanthin production needs energy, and electricity requirements can be a huge contributor to the environmental footprints of manufacturers that rely on non-renewable energy resources such as fossil fuels. Iceland is rich in hydro and geothermal resources and generates 100% of its electricity from clean energy. Having access to that is an essential part of Algalif’s process in bringing its products to the marketplace.
The Algalif facility draws 100% of its power from geothermal energy, and its proprietary lighting system enables that facility to reduce overall energy consumption by 50%, in addition to providing for optimal microalgae growth, productivity and yield.
As well as electricity, water is another essential ingredient in the growth of algae, and once again, Iceland gives Algalif access to an abundant supply of some of the purest water in the world. Icelandic water is extremely clean, low in minerals and almost sterile from its source. However, just because this water is plentiful doesn’t mean Algalif will be wasteful with it.
Algalif’s production methods allow for close to 0% water evaporation, where some other manufacturers lose up to 20% of water per day. Algalif minimizes cooling, heating and water movement during its production process, drastically reducing water-waste in the facility.
A Growing Industry
Algalif is off to a strong start, with a healthy, and growing business.
“We’ve done quite well from the beginning, especially in the last two-to-three years. We see a bright future and the market is growing steadily,” says Bjornsson.
However, Bjornsson is also quick to point out that this is only the start of their journey.
“This industry is very new and undeveloped in many ways, so when we started, we had many challenges to overcome,” Bjornsson says. “The technology wasn’t fully developed and we had to replan and reorganise most of our major systems. The light installations, for instance, weren’t the right type so we had to change that completely. We had to install cooling units to control the temperature because the heat created from using a lot of energy. There were a lot of technological challenges but in the last few years we’ve been doing very well in solving those issues completely without too much of a hardship for the company.”
That they are operating in such a young industry brings other challenges with it as well, particularly in terms of human resources.
“Because the industry is undeveloped there is not an abundance of talent out there. So, our focus has been on retaining people as long as possible, finding people with good background and good education, and keep training them,” Bjornsson says. “We send them to seminars and conferences to develop their skills and they stay with us in the long run. We have a core team that has stayed with us for many years.”
But while the industry is young, with the energy, water and human resources Algalif has behind it, Bjornsson is predicting great things for the future of the company.
“I see us growing quite fast over the next three or four years to become the biggest producer of astaxanthin in the world,” he says. “I foresee us expanding our offering into other kinds of algae over the next two-to-ten years. We can develop the market in significant volumes and become one of the biggest microalgae growers in the world with our expertise helping us to continue to grow for the foreseeable future.”