the BlueCC The project aims to extract valuable products, such as collagen and chitin, from new marine sources. The market for these ingredients is huge, especially for collagen. The collagen market alone is valued at around $ 8.6 billion globally, according to Forbes.
Nofima directs the BlueCC project, in which a team of scientists extract collagen and chitin – natural biopolymers often used in cosmetics and dietary supplements – from invasive species that appear in European waters or end up as bycatch in commercial fisheries. They also aim to find a way to exploit lumpfish, which is used as a cleaner fish in salmon farming but must be discarded when the salmon is harvested.
Runar Gjerp Solstad from Nofima leads the project and explains that the objective is twofold.
“We took a more consumer-driven approach to this research. This means that we conduct surveys to identify consumer demand and can adjust our research accordingly, ”Solstad said in a press release. “We will then try to extract collagen and chitin from marine by-products using more sustainable methods.”
BlueCC has eight partners from six different countries and received funding of € 2 million from the BlueBio Cofund. Seven academic partners and a Norwegian industrial partner are involved in the project, which runs until autumn 2023.
“We find that research becomes a more democratic process when you actually check out what consumers need and want,” said Themis Altintzoglou, market researcher at Nofima.
Last year he conducted a survey of over 1,000 consumers in the UK. The objective was to map the demand for potential products containing collagen or chitosan from specific marine species.
“Putting the consumer first is a bit unique in this type of research. The use of market research as a key part of the development process is also new. The way market researchers ask questions allows them to identify what the consumer wants and needs, ”Solstad said.
Once the survey results are analyzed, it is possible to formulate informed strategies for product development and research.
“We already have a very exciting trail that we have started to follow. This can increase our chances of success with new products, ”Solstad revealed.
Focus on the environment
According to Solstad, the project also has important green ambitions. In addition to using underutilized marine resources, the team of scientists will also adopt more sustainable extraction methods.
“Collagen and chitin are insoluble in water. Therefore, a lot of acids or alkalis are needed to extract the raw material. We want to go for more environmentally friendly chemicals and we are currently considering using a special strain of bacteria for extraction purposes, ”he explained.
This particular strain of bacteria is found in research partner IME Fraunhofer in Germany. They hope this may be the key to more sustainable chitin extraction.
Solstad admits that research funders have expressed concern that the project is trying too many things at the same time.
“They said we were exceptionally ambitious. But I think it’s all too common for people to not be ambitious enough to be more confident in their success, ”he said.
“We will find new methods to transform marine bio-waste into by-products and to manufacture prototypes of new and environmentally friendly products. We believe that pushing yourself to explore something new is valuable in itself, ”he added.