21 March 2018 – DSM and Evonik’s 50-50 joint venture, Veramaris V.O.F., which uses natural marine algae to produce sustainable omega-3 fatty acid products for animal nutrition is now officially established after receiving all necessary approvals. Headquartered at the DSM Biotech Campus in Delft, the Netherlands, Veramaris has started the construction of its USD 200 million production facility at the Evonik site in Blair, Nebraska (USA). The work is proceeding according to plan.
Veramaris combines DSM’s expertise in the cultivation of marine organisms (including algae) and long-established biotechnology capabilities in development and operations, with Evonik’s focus on developing industrial biotechnology processes and operating competitive large-scale manufacturing sites for fermentative amino acids. The result enables Veramaris to offer an omega-3 source that is the first to combine both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for salmon aquaculture and pet food.
Veramaris is headed by CEO, Karim Kurmaly, a marine biologist, previously Vice President, Animal Nutrition & Health in Asia Pacific at DSM; and CFO, Frank Beissmann, an engineer, who has been with Evonik for more than 20 years holding various positions in production, supply chain, marketing and controlling.
In an interview with Feedinfo News Service, Mr. Kurmaly and Mr. Beissmann discuss the strategic outlook for Veramaris and its role in enabling continuous growth of the aquaculture industry.
[Feedinfo News Service] Can you tell us about the reason why you founded the joint venture Veramaris?
[Karim Kurmaly] At Veramaris, we feel responsible to help conserve marine life using our pioneering natural marine algal technology. The increasing growth of the aquaculture industry will eventually lead to a supply-demand gap in EPA and DHA. Veramaris can help to fill this gap with our algal oil that is both consistent in quality and reliable in supply. Therefore, we are confident that Veramaris will enable the future sustainable, growth of the aquaculture sector, responsibly within planetary boundaries.
[Feedinfo News Service] Veramaris is committed to delivering omega-3 EPA & DHA fatty acids of the highest quality to customers, “reliably” and setting an “industry standard”. Would you like to expand on these notions of reliability and industry standard?
[Frank Beissmann] Animal nutrition needs a reliable source of EPA and DHA that does not fluctuate in specification, quality or availability. With our oil from natural marine algae, this is exactly what we can promise our partners. The natural marine algae forms the beginning of the natural food chain in the ocean on trophic level one. What we do at Veramaris is to simply bypass the food chain by feeding EPA and DHA directly to animals, offering the industry the most natural and most sustainable omega-3 for animal nutrition. We know that this approach resonates well with the stakeholders of the entire value chain to establish Veramaris’ algal oil as the industry standard for EPA and DHA.
[Feedinfo News Service] Why is it important to add EPA and DHA to animal feed?
[Karim Kurmaly] Just like humans, fish and other animals need omega-3 to grow and live healthily. Nutritional science has deepened our understanding of the health benefits of omega-3 across all life stages – from boosting our immune systems to improving heart health, eyesight and even psychological wellbeing. A diet rich in seafood, such as salmon, is the best source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. The more omega-3 that salmon consume, the more omega-3 becomes available to human nutrition.
[Feedinfo News Service] How do you plan to transition marine ingredient-dependent customers to Veramaris’ EPA-DHA product as smoothly as possible?
[Frank Beissmann] The Veramaris algal oil that we create from natural marine algae has a concentration of more than 50 % of both EPA and DHA, providing a high value source of these two essential fatty acids key to the healthy growth of salmon. Obviously, the Veramaris oil is liquid, and its viscosity is similar to fish oil – the current mainstream source of EPA and DHA – so it can easily be integrated into existing feed production processes without any modifications. The high concentration of the oil provides free space in the feed formulation – a feature highly appreciated by nutritionists. At Veramaris, we can draw on well-established global logistics to ensure on-time delivery to customers all over the world. Similarly, at DSM and Evonik large teams of nutritionists and scientists support Veramaris’ customers in formulating optimal diets.
[Feedinfo News Service] Which species to you target?
[Karim Kurmaly] The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are key for the healthy nutrition of many species. Of course, Veramaris focuses on the biggest user of EPA and DHA in animal nutrition, which is salmon aquaculture, but other fish also need EPA and DHA. Often raised in China, Latin America and South-East Asia, in this region, shrimp aquaculture is also an attractive market for us. Our first feeding trials with shrimp are already ongoing, and we have an application outside of aquaculture, which is for pet food.
[Feedinfo News Service] Initially, you will be targeting the aquaculture markets in Norway, Scotland and Chile. What are your expectations?
[Karim Kurmaly] We have already received extraordinarily positive feedback from those regions. Leading salmon farming companies are seeking to become more independent of marine fishery catches and are looking for a sustainable and responsible supply of EPA and DHA that they can depend upon. Several leading farmers also want to immediately reduce the forage fish dependency ratio (FFDR) at all their sites and cages, and want to become a net producer of fish by bringing their FFDR to below one. The algal oil from Veramaris will enable farmers to achieve the improved sustainability metrics for their retail and growing food service customers. Additionally, many farmers are aware of the fact that only our algal oil can they bring the FFDR down to zero, for the first time in history. Our initial production capacity has the ability to conserve 1,120,000 tons of forage fish per year.
[Feedinfo News Service] When can we expect the Blair facility to begin delivering product?
[Frank Beissmann] We expect commercial quantities from our Blair facility in Nebraska (USA) to be available in the second half of 2019, and construction at the site is proceeding according to plan.
[Feedinfo News Service] Veramaris engages in dialogue with all stakeholders across the value chain, including NGOs. What feedback are you picking up at the moment?
[Karim Kurmaly] The basic question of our time is: How can we provide healthy nutrition to a growing world population within planetary boundaries? Of course, nobody can solve this endeavor by itself. Therefore, we need to collaborate as we have at DSM and Evonik to form Veramaris, and this collaboration is happening across the entire value chain in order to have a meaningful impact. Conserving marine biodiversity, helping to prevent overfishing and illegal exploitation of marine resources, preventing a global omega-3 shortage is not only the ultimate purpose of our business, but also at the top of the agenda for many stakeholders along the value chain, as well as NGOs who are active within this agenda. For Veramaris, participating in public dialogues, listening to others, understanding the critical questions and supporting others to continue growing responsibly is an integral part of our identity.