The innovation, bio-refinement technology, developed by Origin by Ocean is based on the harvesting and processing of sea and ocean grown biomass. With the developed technology, Origin by Ocean has the dual goal of building a profitable global business and solving the eutrophication problem of seas and oceans. While the operations of the company address more than half of the UN SDGs, the most impacted goal is goal #14: Life Below Water – to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development”.
Hanken School of Economics
There are several negative impacts from the increasing presence of blue-green algae both to the health of seas and oceans and to humans. The innovation, the bio-refinement technology, developed by Origin by Ocean is based on the harvesting and processing of sea and ocean grown biomass such as blue-green algae, bladderwrack, and kelp. From the biomass resulting from the process, natural and biologically sustainable ingredients can be further refined into various raw materials for food, beverage, cosmetics, agricultural and pharmaceutical industries. While the business is still at the early stage of development and not yet commercialized, the company already works closely with industrial partners in developing suitable materials to be produced in Finland's first neo-ecology biorefinery algae processing plant and is planned to be fully operational by 2026. Now that Origin by Ocean has secured its first round of funding, they are setting up laboratories and recruiting experts in the field. Currently, the company is entering the product development and testing phase.
The company is founded to address a global environmental challenge through a profitable business model Origin by Ocean addresses several UN SDG's, namely SDG's 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, and especially 14. These sustainable development goals are met in various stages of production - starting from the harvesting of seaweed all the way to the final product. The company’s operations produce environmentally beneficial raw materials for the production of various products while improving the biodiversity and carbon sink of the Baltic Sea.
The idea of Origin by Ocean was originated by Granström, who combined her professional background and experience in organic chemistry, bio-refineries, and bio-based materials to develop a sustainable bio-refinery concept that can help solve the eutrophication problem described above. By combining Westerlund’s business experience, together they launched their business venture solving environmental issues with a new commercial business approach, "from challenge to value". The vision of Origin by Ocean is to create “a better planet for all of us, through the sustainable use of forested and harvested marine biomass from our oceans”.
Westerlund says that with 75% of our planet being covered by water, the seaweed is a hugely underutilized resource: "We need to take better care of the oceans if we want to remain as a species on this planet for a longer time" states Westerlund. In addition to providing a technological solution to a critical, and consistently worsening, environmental problem, the company's strategy is based on a solid business plan that targets significant revenues and sustainable profitability both in the long-term. In practice, the company's founders' inspiration is based on their passion for protecting the environment combined with a strong business outlook.
The eutrophication process is caused by the increasing amount of nutrients in seas and oceans due to the continuous flow of artificial phosphorous and nitrogen from inappropriate waste management and disposal practices of agricultural and industrial activities. This leads to the growth of blue-green algae and low-oxygen levels which deteriorates oceans. The process is further aggravated by climate change from increasing sea temperatures and acidification. The main impacts of the eutrophication process include the contamination of water, the loss of fish population and native seaweed, the poisoning of birds and animals, and human health. The global market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at USD 3 trillion per year, about 5 percent of global GDP.
As the eutrophication of seas and oceans is a global problem, Origin by Ocean is providing a solution to dealing with negative environmental and climate impacts that can be implemented in many areas around the world. The business concept is built on taking advantage of global trends in consumption patterns, as the popularity of plant-based diets increases. The long-term strategy of the company is further strengthened by decisions at the political level supporting sustainable business ideas, including the European Union’s and Finland’s active support to bio-economy sectors and the global commitments towards achieving the UN SDGs.
Partnerships with potential customers are based on mutual ambitions to build sustainable operations. Together with its partners, the company is developing products tailored to the specific needs of each partner. These tailored products will then be produced in the company's plant, once commissioned. Because processed biomass can be used in a wide variety of products, Origin by Ocean has the potential for a major impact. For example, Kiilto has announced they intend to produce a new line of hygiene and cleaning products based on the ingredients refined by Origin by Ocean. Similarly, Vitae Clean Cosmetics has also committed to producing a new line of cosmetics based entirely on the materials refined by Origin by Ocean. The natural cosmetics industry itself is projected to grow at 8% p.a., with a 22-billion-euro market share.
Then, the company has secured financing from investors that are seeking environmentally and ethically sound investment opportunities, such as Moomin Characters. These investors see the business potential and the positive environmental and climate impacts of the company's planned operations. “Our successful seed financing round along with the previously signed partnerships shows us that markets are opening up for business ideas and concepts built upon a strong foundation of sustainability and circular economy principles “, CEO, Mikael Westerlund says. The company additionally has an Advisory Board, who can be relied on to not only provide advice and assistance, but to be engaged, active, and committed to the same cause.
The Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted seas on our planet. Harvesting blue-green algae and removing phosphorous substances it consumes simultaneously improves the ocean's biodiversity and properties to act as a carbon sink. One trial currently in progress with Nordic Trout Ab is to combine fish farming and bladderwrack farming. The aim is to find commercially and environmentally beneficial methods to combine the two, furthering the goal of solving the eutrophication problem of the Baltic Sea.
Origin by Ocean is one of the initial partners in forming the Seaweed for Europe coalition. The coalition aims to address the barriers players in the macroalgae industry face, drive innovation and investment, and gather a variety of stakeholders with unique knowledge to unlock the significant benefits the seaweed industry offers.
A future approach by the company is that once more harvesters can be produced at a larger scale, the idle ships of nations around the Baltic Sea will be equipped with harvesters and use them to collect blue-green algae and phosphorous in large quantities. Not only would this give a new use for the idle ships, such as icebreakers, but it would also encourage cooperation of the nations for a new, environmentally benefitting purpose.
Mikael Westerlund, Founder
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Espoo, Uusimaa, FI
Business Website: https://www.originbyocean.com/
Year Founded: 2019
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Origin by Ocean is a Finnish start-up established in 2019 by biochemist Mari Granström and IT and Business executive Mikael Westerlund. The objective of the company is to use the bio-refinement technology it has developed to produce refined biomass materials from harvested sea-based biomass, such as blue-green algae from the Baltic Sea. The produced biomass materials are then supplied to various industries, from consumer goods to industrial products, as raw materials for further production. While the company is still at the early stage of business development, the long-term objective is to build sustainable and profitable operations that are expected to reach multimillion revenues once large-scale commercialization is reached.