Big investment in enzymes

Big investment in enzymes

Illustration photo from Barents Biocentre Lab. Photo: Guro Storskjær/

Had it not been for the Arctic climate and Barents Biocentre Lab, Barentzymes would not exist. Twelve employees from Norway and Denmark are today attending the opening of the head office in Tromsø.

The new enterprise Barentzymes started up on May 1 and with 12 highly qualified employees there is maximum effort right from day one.

The idea behind the company is to sell enzymes for industrial use. The world is full of residual waste and, by using enzymes, biological by-products may be converted into animal feed and not least food for human consumption.

Jan Buch Andersen

The founder and Managing Director of Barentzymes, Jan Buch Andersen, says:

“We’re approaching nine billion people on earth by 2050. They want to live better and eat better than is the case today. We can not only rely on increased production from agriculture. Of today’s food production around half becomes biological waste. We need higher utilization of this raw material.”

“We're thinking ahead to the oil-free society. We must find biological solutions for the challenges of the future. The bioeconomy will be absolutely crucial in the future.”

Fish waste becomes feed
Jan Buch Andersen describes a project that has just received funding from research and development programme MABIT. When fish viscera and waste is added to enzymes from bacteria extracted from dried and salted fish, the nutritious proteins may be separated and used for food and drink.

“We find enzymes in bacteria in the fish, and remove the genes and grow them. We don’t get enough enzymes from fish bacteria otherwise all the fish would be spoiled,” says Andersen.

The technique may be used industrially to make animal feed or, for instance, protein drinks. Barentzymes expects to have the results of this research available in six months.

Building office
Link to Barentzymes logoBarentzymes is building an office as close to the Barents Biocentre Lab as possible. Within a short space of time, a circulation area adjacent to the rental laboratory has been converted into and fitted out as offices for the company.

“Here, Barentzymes have access to lab facilities and the state-of-the-art equipment they need right from day one,” says Norinnova Business Developer Line Bøe Setså.

She confirms that the unique rental lab in Tromsø, along with the city’s interesting and scientifically strong biotechnology community, is the key reason why the company decided to establish itself at the Tromsø Science Park.

Jan Buch Andersen emphasizes this in his distinct Danish accent. The close proximity to the Barents Biocentre Lab, Marbank, UiT The Arctic University of Norway and the strong environment associated with bioprospecting in Tromsø was of decisive importance for the location of the company so far north.

Genetic variation
Moreover, the Arctic has much greater genetic variation than warmer areas, says Andersen.  Various species need to adapt to a demanding climate, and the ability to adapt is essential in order to survive.

Consequently, we have unique genetic variation in the Arctic, which Barentzymes knows how to utilize.

It’s hard to say whether or not this makes the residents of the north more robust and adaptable. But it is marine species that are of most interest to Barentzymes.

The recently established company with its head office in Tromsø will have a “regional office” in Copenhagen. Andersen believes they have got highly educated people on board. Nine of 12 hold a PhD.

“Many of our new employees have more than 20 years’ experience in the industry, and some come from key positions in the multinational group Novozymes. When they got the chance to be part of the team, they couldn’t say no,” says Jan Buch Andersen

But how does an enzyme mosquito like Barentzymes compete with the big global suppliers?

“It's precisely our size and location that constitutes our competitive advantage. The fact that we are small allows us to develop more rapidly. We have a unique platform for development, through advanced tools that can analyze large amounts of data. We don’t have to start by examining enzymes one by one. We can analyze mixtures of enzymes rapidly, and this provides a short and cheap route out to the market.”

Clients decide
Around NOK 25 million has been invested in establishing the company. And how many enzymes do Barentzymes have on the shelves when they open their doors?

Andersen smiles broadly and explains how the sale of enzymes occurs in practice:

“Our clients set the agenda from day one. The clients’ needs and orders determine what we will supply. We don’t have a single finished product yet. No one has done this before. It’s bold, but possible!”

That’s how a real entrepreneur speaks. Good luck Barentzymes!

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(By: Rannveig H. Stiberg / Published May 15 2014)