Algae entrepreneur from KTH named Wired fellow

[Sweden] Can a seaweed farmer change the world? Wired magazine seems to think so. It named algae entrepreneur Fredrika Gullfot —a former KTH researcher — one of its 12 Wired Innovation Fellows for 2015.

The founder of Simris, a pioneering agribusiness growing algae in Sweden, Gullfot will be one of the featured speakers at the WIRED2015 festival to be held October 15 and 16 in London.

“It really is an honor that comes with an obligation. I feel very humble, but to improve the environment in the world’s oceans is one purpose for what we do,” Gullfot says.

And the company is wasting no time doing so. Simris is undergoing expansion for industrial scale production of algae as an alternative, sustainable source of omege-3 in our increasingly over-fished oceans. The company’s facility in southern Sweden will house 2,000-square-metres of greenhouse space when the expansion is complete.

Demand for omega-3 hits fish is growing, and it takes a lot of fish to produce it for consumers. A single consumer size jar of omega-3 capsules can take hundreds of sardines to produce.

“The situation for the oceans is acute, and almost 70 to 80 percent of fish stocks are fully exploited, or already overfished,” she says. “If this continues we risk a complete ecological collapse.”

Today only 2 percent of the fish oil on the market is extracted from algae, she says. “If we can increase this to 25 per cent, it will have great significance for our oceans.”

After graduating from KTH, Gullfot took her PhD in molecular biotechnology of enzymes in plant cells walls, and it was then that microalgae caught her attention.

“Algae is a great biotechnological platform and likely to be even more important for the future,” she say, pointing out areas where the plant plays a key role: fuel, food and medicine (as an alternative to antibiotics).

The next step for Simris Algae is growing internationally in countries such as England and South Korea, where omega-3 is an increasingly common dietary supplement.

Fredrika Gullfot is the first Swede appointed as a Wired Innovation Fellow.

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