[Sweden, UK] Algae cultivator Fredrika Gullfot is on a mission to reduce dependence on fish and the depletion of endangered stocks. To do this, her company Simris is growing algae that produce omega-3. The same stuff that’s much-coveted worldwide as a health food supplement.
Fredrika is one of thirteen WIRED2015 Innovation Fellows who will be speaking on the Main Stage at our flagship event, WIRED2015 on October 15-16. She will take part in the session, “Startups with impact” alongside startup seeker Alisée de Tonnac and bio-fuels pioneer Arthur Kay.
Bringing the WIRED world to life, WIRED2015 showcases the innovators changing the world and promoting disruptive thinking and radical ideas. There will be more than 50 speakers over the two-day event, presenting stories about their work in science, design, business and many other fields.
What are you planning to speak about at WIRED2015?
The WWF has issued its Living Blue Planet Report stating that the global fish population in the oceans has halved since the ’70s due to overfishing and destruction of marine habitats. Think about it: half of the fish on this planet, just gone! There is no other word for that than insanity.
One key driver of overfishing is the fish oil industry, for the production of omega-3 health supplements. This is a huge multi-billion market, growing at a whopping 12 per cent annually — a recipe for disaster. There is only one way to stop such a profitable industry: by offering a kick-ass alternative that makes the current practise obsolete. The irony of it all is that omega-3 does not even come from the fish, it comes from the algae that the fish get with their diet.
That is what Simris is about: growing the algae that are the primary producers of omega-3, and to use algae oil instead of fish. I will share our story about how we developed our algae farming process tightly together with the brand. It’s all about building a new industry, from scratch, and we chose a quite different route from other startups in science and tech. We see business as a tool for change, and nature as the best source of technology.
What would you like to achieve by speaking at WIRED2015?
I prefer to inspire, rather than to preach. Yes, we tick off all the fancy, hard-core checkboxes: science, high-tech, sustainability — but I also hope to appeal to people’s fantasy and emotions, by sharing my love for these tiny little miracle plants from the sea. There’s so much to fix in this world, and we need to get going. Change comes from passion within, and not by being told what to do. I want people to fall in love with algae, just as I once did. The rest will follow.
Who are you looking forward to hearing and/or meeting at WIRED2015?
Everyone! The whole line-up on stage is so exciting and diverse, so I hardly know where to start. I’m absolutely thrilled about René Redzepi and the MAD team. We come from very different angles, but I feel some kind of “soul connection” in our involvement in the future of food. Food is such a profound human expression and experience.
I think Jose Miguel Sokoloff will be very interesting, and relevant to how we think about marketing as a means to create change.I am also curious about the singers and musicians, to hear what’s next in pop. And, last not least, I am super excited to meet the other fellows. I already discovered Freeman Osonugaand I share a passion for space travel. It seems like he’ll be getting hold of a ticket soon, I still have to figure out how to get mine.
You’re the recipient of a WIRED2015 Innovation Fellowship for your work cultivating algae.What does being named a WIRED2015 Innovation Fellow mean to you?
It is both humbling and reassuring at the same time. We know we can make a real difference — but seeing that that others can see this potential as well is just an amazing feeling. That said, while I don’t want to down-play my own role, my success with Simris is to a great extent due to my amazing team of superheroes. In particular Daphne Jaeschke, our Head of Marketing, deserves a huge shout out for the stellar work she has done with the brand. I wouldn’t be standing on the WIRED2015 stage if I still were the geek I was when we started working together. She is essentially the founder of the Simris brand, and taught us biologists and engineers how to reach out in the world.
It takes more than scientists such as myself to become truly disruptive. In that sense, I hope my WIRED2015 Innovation Fellowship will encourage the whole team to keep up the good work, and to realize what an awesome job everyone has done so far. Apart from that, the media exposure is of course a god-send for a tiny company such as ours aspiring to reach out with a great message.
Where do you see your sector of the WIRED world in five years’ time?
Omega-3 from algae will have 5-10 per cent of the global market for omega-3 (today: 2 per cent), and will have become a mainstream alternative for dietary supplements. I believe omega-3 from algae will eventually reach at least 25 per cent market share in total. Our long-term goal for Simris is 5 per cent of the omega-3 market. By then, people will have hopefully got their act together to protect the Oceans, and fish stocks will have started to recover.
What’s next for Simris?
Our current focus is our expansion to full industrial scale, which will be completed in summer 2016. Due to our ownership structure with over 130 shareholders, we’re also preparing Simris for an IPO on the NASDAQ OMX First North exchange. It goes without saying that this is a major milestone — and a lot of work.
What’s next for Fredrika Gullfot?
Autumn and winter means endurance training season! I’m preparing for a long distance hike/run adventure — not decided yet whether it will be the 272 miles Long Trail in Vermont or the Mount Olympos region in Greece. It will take about a year to get in shape.
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