The Biomarine Convention is the place to be for blue biotech. The word ‘Blue’ is used to refer to the use of marine resources for industrial purposes. The main applications of blue biotech are pharma, food and bioplastics. All of these were covered during the Biomarine convention.
The major industry players and startups active in the algae biotech were present and it gave an excellent snapshot of where the marine bioplastics industry stands at the moment.
Blue pharma and Blue novel food industries are much more established and mature than the blue bioplastics industry but for the sake of this article we will focus on the bioplastics part.
We shouldn’t speak of an industry when we talk about blue bioplastics as there’s no industrial production yet. Blue bioplastics is a very young movement and most of the companies are start ups.
The most important advantage when you deal with start ups is that there’s an abundance of innovative and disruptive concepts on how to make the world a better place. The most important disadvantage is the distance between disruptive innovations and commercial breakthrough or industrial production.
Bioplastics made from algae are referred to as as blue plastic or blue bioplastic. The most important feedstocks of blue bioplastics are algae, seaweed, chitin and chitosan. Algae and seaweed are feedstock of the third generation (seaweed is a type of algae). Chitin and Chitosan are feedstock of the second generation (chitosan is made from chitin).
Chitin is a derivative of glucose and is the primary component of cell walls in fungi, exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects, and the scales of fish and lissamphibians. Talking about chitin in the context of blue bioplastics refers to chitin of marine origin.
Algae can be segmented according to its size: micro and macro. Micro algae cannot be seen by the naked eye. However, you can see them when they form chains. They’re mostly green or blue-green. Other colours may occur such as red slime (cyanobacteria) and brown diatom but these are not “true” algae but still fall under the micro-algae category. Macro-algae can be seen by the naked eye and look like plants. They come in several colours such as brown, red or green.
There was an impressive Canadian delegation present at the Biomarine Convention. In fact, I have never seen so many Canadians, mostly Quebecois, at an European bioplastics event. Blue biotech seems to be a priority for Canada. Let us remember that Canada missed the bioplastics wave and one of their bioplastics leader, BioAmber, filled for bankruptcy in may 2018. Is this interest in blue biotech the start of new chapter for the Canadian bioplastics industry? Will Canada finally wake up from its bioplastic winter sleep? Will Canada disrupt its old business model of exporting their resources and start developing and applying new technologies and innovations to create value to their own resources?
Portugal could become the European leader of the algae industry if it plays its cards wisely. The Portuguese Government showed their engagement towards the blue economy as the President of Portugal and his Minister of the Sea were present during the social events. Speaking with Portuguese public officials, we noticed great intentions and commitment to place Portugal at the top of the blue economy. Will Portuguese politicians prioritise the blue biotech as much as they prioritise maritime transport and harbours?
France is dominating the algae industry. The French algae industrial stronghold is located in Brittany and the first blue bioplastic industrial breakthrough may originate from that region. The legend says that Brittany used to irritate Julius Caesar as they just wouldn’t listen to and obey the Roman Emperor. Will ze French manage to lead the blue bioplastic industry and realise the first blue industrial breakthrough?
Germany is a leader and driver of European bioplastics but may pass their turn when it comes to blue bioplastics as Germany is not a sea nation or am I wrong?
Saudi Arabia was represented and follows the algae biotech developments to be able to surf on the wave when it hits the shore. Saudi Arabia has no sweet water and needs to think about the post-oil period. Algae and seaweed growing in seawater may be a valuable option to valorise their shores. Will Saudi Arabia make substantial investments in the algae biotech industry?
Norway was the most represented country amongst the Nordic and Scandinavian countries and will most certainly become the blue bioplastics leader in the Nordic region.
Italy, America, Japan and Great Britain were under represented at the convention.
Last but not least
One of the strongest point of the blue bioplastic industry are the organisers of the Biomarine Convention. Pierre and Veronique Erwes brought their energy and charisma to the equation. Will Pierre and Veronique manage to boost blue bioplastics innovations? Will they lead the transformation of the blue bioplastic movement into a real industry and disrupt the plastic industry? Will they lead the blue bioplastics movement across the industrial dessert and reach the bioplastic land?
They’re still many questions and uncertainties regarding the blue bioplastics industry but there’s one thing certain, you’ll know it all by reading bioplasticsnews.com 🙂