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Interview With CEO of Aker BioMarine

In today’s highly competitive market, supplement companies try to find innovative ingredients and develop high-quality products with superb efficacy. We had a chance to interview Matts Johansen, the CEO of Aker BioMarine, a company that’s making highly potent krill-based supplements.

Matts joined Aker BioMarine in 2009 as Chief Operating Officer and was named CEO in 2015. His mission is to improve human and planetary health by sustainably developing high-quality products. Here is what Matts had to say about Aker BioMarine and its products.

NutraIndustry: Why is krill a good source of bioactive compounds for nutraceutical products?

Matts Johansen: There is no question that krill oil, a marine phospholipid complex of choline and omega-3s, is a unique and powerful dietary supplement, and there are many reasons why. For starters, there is no other supplement that provides the vital nutrients, choline, and omega-3s, in such an efficient delivery form that krill oil can.

With krill oil, the body instantly recognizes omega-3s (EPA & DHA) and incorporates them into the cells before carrying them to the tissues and organs that need them the most; this happens due to krill oil’s phospholipid advantage.  

Phospholipids, also known as the “molecule of life” are natural, integral parts of cells that help maintain the strength, flexibility, and integrity of cells and cell membranes. The omega-3s found in krill oil are taken up directly into the cell walls simply because they have the exact same structure as our body’s building blocks. This direct path allows for all of the key nutrients to find its destination in the body in the most effective way. 

To that end, krill oil contains multiple health-promoting nutrients and comes with a multitude of benefits for the heart, brain, joints, and more. In fact, a growing body of evidence demonstrates krill oil’s beneficial effects on health across multiple categories.

NutraIndustry: How sustainable is krill fishing, and what technology do you use to ensure maximum sustainability?

Matts Johansen: Krill sustainability starts with the strict management regime of the krill fishery, only allowing 1% of the biomass to be harvested annually. This ensures that 99% of the biomass is left to other species that rely on krill as part of their diets. Due to the strict management and ongoing proactive sustainability efforts, the krill fishery is recognized for being one of the world’s strongest regulated fisheries. 

Sustainability is something Aker BioMarine takes very seriously and has since day one. Before deploying our very first fishing net in the Southern Ocean, we began working with WWF-Norway to ensure that our operations would have low impact on the Antarctic ecosystem, and every day since then, we have committed ourselves to creating a sustainable, long-term, krill fishery. 

It’s also important to point out that sustainability is not about philanthropy to us; it’s a strategic priority to ensure the long-term profitability of our company. Since we are on a mission to improve people’s health without compromising the health of our planet and its oceans, it is our intention to always do our part to contribute towards the solutions, and there are many ways that we do this. 

First and foremost, we see partnerships and collaborations as great opportunities and advantages to help improve planetary health.

3rd party certifications help validate that the work we do is helping to steer the industry in the right direction. This includes the Marine Stewardship Council certification, which guarantees that the marine resources are harvested using sustainable methods and that all products are traceable throughout the supply chain. MSC is the highest renowned sustainability certification available, and Aker BioMarine has been MSC certified since 2010. The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) also offers another important certification. SFP is an independent organization that evaluates the sustainability of global fisheries, and for the fifth year in a row has graded the krill fishery an A rating, meaning the krill fishery is in very good condition.

In addition to partnerships and certifications, technology and big data are major priority areas for Aker BioMarine. In fact, we see technology and big data as the future of sustainable fisheries management. We are investing in technology to help advance our sustainability leadership, and we believe that in order to be a driver for a more transparent, data-driven fishery management regime for krill in Antarctica, we need to utilize ocean data drones, machine learning, and other technologies.

Early into our business, we introduced a new way to harvest krill, and this technology is called Eco Harvesting. Our Eco Harvesting technology was created to help protect the Antarctic fishery from undesirable environmental impact. This technique utilizes a net that doesn’t harm other species, plus the catch process helps preserve the nutritional integrity of the krill.

Earlier this year, we launched an unmanned solar-powered ocean data drone (called the Sailbuoy) as part of our operations in Antarctica. The Sailbuoy has a carbon footprint of zero as it is equipped with environmental sensors. It is small and unobtrusive to avoid disturbing the local wildlife. By collecting data from wherever it is deployed, in real-time, the Sailbuoy will provide a more accurate picture of the size of the biomass, benefiting the wider scientific community and the krill fishery as whole.

By investing in big data and technology, we have better decision-making tools to help positively impact the industry, and we are able to increase our positive handprint while minimizing our carbon footprint.

NutraIndustry: Can you tell us more about the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies?

Matts Johansen: The Association for Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies (also known as ARK) is an industry organization initiated by Aker BioMarine to ensure that all krill harvesting companies adopt best practices on sustainability. ARK’s mission is to facilitate a positive industry contribution to an ecologically sustainable management of the krill fishery. 

ARK has brought together the krill fishing industry on many levels including coordinating and cooperating with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) on the provision of research and information on krill and the krill fishery, as well as supporting scientific research and educational initiatives of CCAMLR to manage the krill fishery on a sustainable basis.

In 2018, the ARK members announced to voluntarily stop fishing in areas around the Antarctic Peninsula, including ‘buffer zones’ around the breeding colonies of penguins, in order to protect Antarctic wildlife. The companies also pledged to support scientific and political efforts to create a network of large-scale marine protected areas in the Antarctic, including areas in which they currently operate.

NutraIndustry: How has Covid-19 affected your business?

Matts Johansen: Fortunately, our supply chain is, and has been, fully operative during these challenging Covid-19 times. During the past few months, we have adhered to all shipping and delivery regulations and guidelines from government authorities and continue to adapt as things change.

We are a customer-centric company, so we have found unique ways to remain in contact with everyone. The importance of connectivity has been crucial, especially during this time when we all need it the most, and by working closely with our customers across the company, we have made krill oil a priority, continuing to bring value to the industry. 

We have seen that during this Covid-19 time, consumers are looking for solutions to general health and taking control of their well-being.  That being said, we have been demonstrating how krill oil perfectly fits into that conversation and communicating why krill oil should be top of mind now and for the future. 

NutraIndustry: What are the future steps for Aker BioMarine?

Matts Johansen: We believe that the role of businesses in society is changing, and we will have numerous opportunities to help positively drive the future of our business and the industry.

Science is at the core of many of our future projects, and our science team is looking at krill from many different perspectives. In fact, we have some exciting clinical studies that are in the works and in the pipeline. 

We recently conducted a study that shows krill oil is a safe, effective, and well-tolerated way to boost your necessary intake levels of choline. There are many health benefits associated with choline, and this is a topic that our customers are interested in.

Aside from our science projects, we have initiatives around innovation, sustainability and more, that we are actively working on. 

With a growing population, it has never been more important to make healthy food and nutrients available to everyone. As a unique and diverse system, the ocean plays a critical role in the world’s future, and we see many opportunities to help support the health of the people and the planet. 

At Aker BioMarine, we will continue to invest in technology platforms, strengthen our partnerships, and take part in science and research to help further our mission. By continuing to put the best strategies in place, we can continue providing the best ingredients to our customers across the globe, and together, we will continue to create solutions for the future. 

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