Oddgeir Oddsen, Managing Director at Prochaete, has a passion for worms! The name Prochaete is derived from “pro” for protein, and “chaete” for polychaete, the marine worms that Oddgeir sees as having great potential as a more sustainable feed alternative for aquaculture production. Prochaete Innovation was established in 2013 as the Sea Fresh Group, Prochaete’s parent company, became increasingly interested in developing a more integrated process from feed production to seafood markets, and in response to an increasing awareness of the sustainability issues surrounding the use of fish meal on a large scale. As Oddgeir explains, “We said if we want to work on sustainability long term, and fish meal is one of the issues, then we need to find another protein source that could be as good a quality as the fish meal. Marine worms provide that quality.” There are other alternative feed sources being developed, but Oddgeir points out that many of them face challenges with taste or a lack of amino acids, and require manipulation in order to approach the quality of fish meal. “The interesting thing about marine worms,” he says, “is that they are as good, or sometimes better than the fish meal.” They have seen their feed performing well compared to competitors’ products, and Prochaete believes it is because of the “magic worm” that they put in their feed.
“The interesting thing about marine worms is that they are as good, or sometimes better than the fish meal.”
The challenge, Oddgeir notes, is being able to produce enough of the worms for commercial use. Currently, there are not many farms producing the worms, and those that do exist grow the worms extensively, producing about two kilos per square metre. This also translates into a pricey product, where a kilo of worms can fetch 35USD. “With the worms’ composition being 80% water, that’s very expensive water,” he exclaims. “That means that when you are drying it into a powder, that powder becomes unacceptably expensive.” As such, Prochaete is also looking into alternative methods for producing the worms intensively, to ensure the use of worms is economically viable as well as environmentally sound.
Oddgeir notes, however, that the worms also have other beneficial capabilities, such as antibacterial properties. “The worms live in burrows in very hostile environments, it could be sewage for example,” he explains. “The worms kill off all the bacteria around the burrow, and just allow the few bacteria they need in their surroundings in a kind of symbiotic scenario.” Prochaete is currently collaborating with the University of Swansea to identify the molecules associated with these antibacterial properties, and Oddgeir hopes to delve further into better understanding this functionality and identifying potential applications as well.
Prochaete has already had discussions with some of the SUREAQUA partners about how to tackle some of the challenges and opportunities his worms present, and looks forward to benefiting from being a part of SUREAQUA. He notes that many of the partners are directly relevant to Prochaete’s work, such as IRIS, Nofima, Marine Harvest, Skretting, Bellona, and others. “It will be nice to sit in a network with those kinds of partners to get feedback, and to see if there is common ground for projects together.”