Nevele, Belgium-based Tomalgae is on the cusp of launching a new algae product for oyster growers in Asia.
Called Thalapure Mollusca, the freeze dried algae formulation may be just the beginning of the algae company’s foray into the international oyster industry.
Tomalgae CEO William van der Riet declined to name the specific country of the launch, but he said the September plan—in time for the October growing season—is firm.
“We have a partner in Asia,” Riet told Undercurrent News.
He said the product can replace live algae production at hatcheries -- a work-intensive process that represents the majority of operational costs for oyster hatcheries. Hatcheries produce the larvae oyster growers need to begin the growout process.
“When I was running a hatchery, I’d expect that 60% of my operating costs came from algae growing,” Robert Rheault, executive director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, told Undercurrent, referring to algae production. “It’s a huge bottleneck in terms of algae production, and it has been for 30 or 40 years.”
Algae production can be very volatile, and when it goes awry, it can leave hatcheries in the lurch during larvae production, both Rheault and Riet said. Oyster hatcheries depend on algae to feed and grow oyster larvae during a stage that lasts the first one to two months of an oyster’s life, and the vast majority of hatcheries produce their own algae, for live consumption.
Tomalgae is also planning to release the product in the US in fall of 2018, tapping a market that -- according to Rheault -- saw oyster production double in the past five years on the east coast.
The company will test the waters for the US launch with oyster contestant finalists of this year's Fish 2.0, a seafood business innovation competition. As a prize sponsor, Tomalgae will meet and get to know new oyster companies. The company will provide an in-kind donation of its product to one winning oyster company, determined based on the contestant that would benefit most.