Belgian algae producer on the verge of oyster industry debut in Asia, US

[Belgium] Nevele, Belgium-based Tomalgae is on the cusp of launching a new algae product for oyster growers in Asia.

Called Thalapure Mollusca, the freeze dried algae formulation may be just the beginning of the algae company’s foray into the international oyster industry.

Tomalgae CEO William van der Riet declined to name the specific country of the launch, but he said the September plan—in time for the October growing season—is firm.

“We have a partner in Asia,” Riet told Undercurrent News.

Live production

He said the product can replace live algae production at hatcheries — a work-intensive process that represents the majority of operational costs for oyster hatcheries. Hatcheries produce the larvae oyster growers need to begin the growout process.

“When I was running a hatchery, I’d expect that 60% of my operating costs came from algae growing,” Robert Rheault, executive director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, told Undercurrent, referring to algae production. “It’s a huge bottleneck in terms of algae production, and it has been for 30 or 40 years.”

Algae production can be very volatile, and when it goes awry, it can leave hatcheries in the lurch during larvae production, both Rheault and Riet said. Oyster hatcheries depend on algae to feed and grow oyster larvae during a stage that lasts the first one to two months of an oyster’s life, and the vast majority of hatcheries produce their own algae, for live consumption.

Tomalgae is also planning to release the product in the US in fall of 2018, tapping a market that — according to Rheault — saw oyster production double in the past five years on the east coast.

Fish 2.0

The company will test the waters for the US launch with oyster contestant finalists of this year’s Fish 2.0, a seafood business innovation competition. As a prize sponsor, Tomalgae will meet and get to know new oyster companies. The company will provide an in-kind donation of its product to one winning oyster company, determined based on the contestant that would benefit most.

The exchange enables US oyster growers to try out Tomalgae’s product while also helping those growers by providing a two-day consultation to help them normalize their production in the hatchery phase, Sandra Stewart, a spokesperson for Fish 2.0, told Undercurrent.

Through this donation, “we can help new oyster and bivalve hatcheries to focus on their core business; producing good quality larvae and spat [baby oysters] without having to focus on the production of their live algae feed,” Riet said.

Rheault said an algae product — if it were on par with live algae in terms of cost and effectiveness — could help oyster growers significantly. Already, the availability of an algae paste, produced by Campbell, California-based marine microalgae concentrate producer Reed Mariculture, has helped. Oyster growers typically don’t depend on it as a complete replacement, but nonetheless it can help in many cases, according to Rheault.

“This is earth-shattering that Reed has gotten the algae technology together that’s as good as live-cultured algae that we’d grow in our own hatcheries, so it’s enabled growers to get started without growing algae,” he said.

Taylor Shellfish

Although Tomalgae’s current focus for its oyster launch is in Asia, it already has ideas about its eventual US launch in fall of 2018. For one thing, it is eyeing work with Washington state oyster-growing behemoth Taylor Shellfish.

Whether or not freeze dried algae is a form of product that Taylor Shellfish wants or needs remains to be seen, but director of public affairs Bill Dewey acknowledges that algae is certainly a major component of oyster production.

“Definitely a limiting factor for what you can produce for larvae is the algae,” Dewey told Undercurrent.

 

View original article at: Belgian algae producer on the verge of oyster industry debut in Asia, US  

Written by Jeanine Stewart

 

 

 

 

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