Vegan, vegetarian, even ‘flexitarian’ – Scotland is very aware of the importance of eating sustainably to help make our planet cleaner and greener. But what about our pets? Enter, MiAlgae.

It might seem ridiculous, but the food that our pets and animals eat can have just as harmful an effect on the environment as the contents of our own fridge. However, MiAlgae, an Edinburgh-based biotech start-up is in the process of commercialising its revolutionary microalgae product whilst targeting the rapidly growing global aquaculture and pet food industries.

MiAlgae uses co-products from the whisky distillation process to produce microalgae, which is high in omega 3 and other nutrients. That microalgae can then be used to feed fish and create animal food. As if that wasn’t enough, the product could also provide a solution to overfishing, with just one tonne of MiAlgae’s product containing the same amount of omega 3 as 30 tonnes of fish!

Douglas Martin giving a talk in front of a presentation screen

Douglas Martin, founder of the innovative company, is the man with the ideas and knowledge:

I was looking to start a company which not only generated value for shareholders but also made the world a measurably better place. The idea for MiAlgae came from work I did in the offshore wind industry, when work was halted on a project due to a massive algae bloom – the type that could be seen from space. The idea was: ‘can you create these blooms in ‘captivity’ and make something useful from them?

MiAlgae’s vision is a world without waste and the company has taken a problem from one industry and turned it into a solution for another. This, coupled with a rapidly growing market for the product, means that not only is their product sustainable, their success looks to be too. MiAlgae’s business processes are rooted in a circular economy, underpinning the creation of their product. They believe in intelligent resource usage and simple solutions for complex problems.

As a start-up, MiAlgae is a great advocate for growing a business in Scotland. They have received support in the form of advice, contacts and partnerships, as well as the financial support offered to them in the form of both grants and direct investment. Douglas described support for startups in Scotland as nothing less than phenomenal:

If someone is looking to start a sustainable company, I would wholeheartedly recommend Scotland as a base.

As well as offering support and advice to businesses looking to start out in Scotland, in 2018, we started amending our climate change bill, making it the most ambitious of its kind in the entire world. It also means, that when it comes to sustainable start-ups, Scotland is an innovative and inspiring place to be.

On top of being innately sustainable, MiAlgae are currently working towards a certification in environmental management, installing rain water collection systems for their demonstrator plant and actively looking for ways to decrease their environmental impact. The business would not exist without sustainability being at its core, Douglas explained:

We embrace the Douglas Adams quote: ‘We don’t have to save the world. The world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about is whether or not the world we live in will be capable of sustaining us in it.’

If MiAlgae have anything to do with it, the world will certainly be capable of sustaining us. However, now, it is businesses like this one that ensure we’re on the right path towards creating a better future for the planet. Reflecting on big moments from the MiAlgae journey so far, Douglas cites the opening of the laboratory as his premier highlight: 

It was a moment of realisation of how far we’d come. The second was when we took delivery of our pilot plant equipment which is a huge step up in scale from the lab work we’d been working on. It was a significant step to making our proprietary system work at scale which is immensely exciting.

On the global stage, MiAlgae is sure to make not only omega 3 from algal blooms, but an impact on the pet food, agriculture and aquaculture industries. Looking closer to home though, Douglas sees Scotland as a place of opportunity:

It’s the place that the Scottish saying ‘whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye’ which means ‘If it’s meant to be, then it will happen for you’ truly stands.

Clearly, thanks to MiAlgae, when it comes to the perhaps less considered pet food and agriculture industries, Scotland is continuing its long history of being a world leader in sustainability and innovation.

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