NORWAY - A recently signed license agreement allows the Japanese company Nosan to learn Nofima’s secrets of sea urchin feed. Secrets that Nofima has been researching for 22 years.
Representatives from the feed company Nosan Corporation, which is 100 per cent owned by the Mitsubishi industrial giant, are training in Norway. In Nofima’s production plant in Kjerreidviken in Bergen they are learning the secret process.
Nofima’s scientists in Tromsø and Bergen are amongst the world’s leaders when it comes to sea urchins and sea urchin feed.
"The coolest is when the research benefits the business community directly. Nothing is better than that," said scientist Tor Andreas Samuelsen in a broad Bergen dialect when he disclosed the business secret to Nosan a few days ago.
With the involvement of the investment company Kaston and Innovation Norway, a licence agreement has been signed for the production of Nofima’s sea urchin feed in Japan.
Both the content and the production method are research secrets that the Japanese will now have access to.
Creating special feed is no easy task. The feed must be dry, but must be able to sink to the bottom. It must have the correct shape and surface to catch the animal’s interest, and must also be in the water for a whole week without dissolving. Photo: Helge Skodvin
The environmental benefits of harvesting and feeding sea urchins are very substantial in the opinion of Brian Tsuyoshi Takeda of Kaston:
"The kelp forests off the Japanese coast were hit hard by the tsunami in 2011. The sea urchins graze down the last of the kelp so that it becomes a kind of desert landscape. By harvesting the sea urchins, putting them in boxes and feeding them, the amount of roe increases and also the sales value. In less than one year the kelp forests will recover and recreate the environment needed by other marine species," says Takeda.
The tsunami caused catastrophic destruction and created an acute crisis in the sea urchin industry. The roe of sea urchins is a delicacy in Japan, and the food loving Japanese normally eat about 50,000 tonnes of this exclusive product every year.
Now, Nofima’s feed is to be produced in Japan under a licence agreement and will be fed to wild-caught sea urchins that will ultimately be served on a Japanese dining table.
Research that needs patience
Patient research by Nofima is now beginning to turn into a Japanese industrial success. This is thanks to Nofima’s cooperation with Kaston, a company that has commercialised the research and has the ability to see new opportunities.
Innovation Norway has also played an important role and contributed significantly to the agreement being signed last week in Japan.
Creating special feed is no easy task. The feed must be dry, but must be able to sink to the bottom. It must have the correct shape and surface to catch the animal’s interest, and must also be in the water for a whole week without dissolving.
Now, Nofima’s feed is to be produced in Japan under a licence agreement and will be fed to wild-caught sea urchins that will ultimately be served on a Japanese dining table. Photo: Makoto Iwamoto ©Nofima/Kaston
"Nofima has always been strong in the field of feed technology, and it is, therefore, very satisfying to see that our technology can recreate business in the Japanese sea urchin industry. The investment company Kaston shall be praised for being the driving force behind this license with Nosan, which is a strong Japanese actor," says Øyvind Fylling-Jensen, CEO of Nofima
In practice, this very fresh agreement gives the Japanese company Nosan the right to produce and to sell sea urchin feed based on a unique recipe that Nofima’s scientists in Tromsø and Bergen have developed.
Kaston has negotiated and entered into the agreement. When commercialising this research they operate under a licence from Nofima.
"In addition to the specific values in the contract, the agreement is also important from a sustainability perspective. We cannot over-estimate the value of taking good care of coral reefs and the ecosystem. The symbolic value is also substantial in that this is an example of the direction Norway’s new special position is taking, where we can earn more from the oceans and the commercialisation of research," says Innovation’s Regional Director for Asia, Svend Haakon Kristensen.
"In Norway we have good framework conditions in terms of research and innovation. But the markets are abroad and very often in Asia. Norwegian companies can advantageously raise their ambition levels. What Kaston is now doing is a good example in that direction.
"Kaston has been working with the Japanese systematically and wisely in the long-term perspective. The licence agreement that they have obtained is a milestone and shows that a lot has have been done and one correctly. This is inspiring and we should see many innovation projects of this type in the time to come."
TheFishSite News Desk