Fish processing plant. (Photo: Icelandic)
Biotechnology and advance marine processing fishing industry subsectors grow
Monday, October 07, 2013, 04:00 (GMT + 9)
Icelandic fishing industry has reported an important growth in advanced marine processing and biotechnology sub-sectors, a study reveals.
The study, which was developed by Iceland Ocean Cluster, reported a growth of 17 per cent in the 2011-2012 period in these fishing industry sub-sectors, the fastest-growing ones in the industry. Provided that this pace in growth continues, these two sectors will surpass the base industry in the next 15-20 years.
The analysis stressed the need for opportunities in advanced marine processing and ocean biotechnology to be taken advantage of and points out that if biotech companies, fisheries and other seafood firms cooperate closely, many new opportunities in the industry will be available, as well as a better use of raw material and new product development support.
In order to achieve this, hard work, patient capital, research and development are needed.
The report focuses on the recycling and use of normally discarded seafood by-products such as heads, bones, skin, guts, shells and other materials derived from the traditional seafood manufacturing. These can be re-used tranforming them into valuable, marketeable products in the pharmaceutical and medical industries as well as into supplements, flavour enhancers, fertilizer, animal feed, cosmetics, etc.
The study also states that these by-products are fundamental for the future development of Icelandic's fishing industry. Of these, medical products are the most valuable.
Consequently, research and biotechnology play a pivotal role in the improvement of raw material, therefore maximizing the fish catches value.
As awareness of the opportunities in these fields increased substantially, so did biotech companies in the past few years. These firms isolate bioactive compounds from marine organisms to produce products of high value.
At present, there are less than 20 biotech companies in Iceland which specialize in marine technology. Top five biotech firms include Lysi, Stofnfiskur, Primex, BioPol and Zymetech.
These firm's total annual turnover, which was ISK 3 billion (EUR 18 million), increased 4 per cent in the 2011-2012.
Since the products of these companies take years, if not decades, to research before they can be released into the market, there are many biotech firms which still have no mass production as of today.
There are also other firms which make use of rest seafood raw material and produce and export dried bones and heads, liver goods, leather, roe and other products. These firms combined turnover was ISK 19 billion (EUR 116 million) last year. This sector showed a growth of 19 per cent in the 2011-2012 period. This proves that by-products utilization can be economically viable in a substantial way.
The report acknowledges that there is ample room for improvement, although Iceland is doing far better in this area compared to other countries which depend on the fishing industry.
By Gabriela Raffaele