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‘We need to work together to survive’: Icelandic start-ups are inventing new ways to tackle climate breakdown

What began as a dozen companies in 2012 has now grown to more than 70 members and associates connected to the Iceland Ocean Cluster, writes Hannah Hall

Wednesday 11 January 2023 15:24 GMT
Julie Encausse of the bioplastic start-up Marea at the Algalif production facility
Julie Encausse of the bioplastic start-up Marea at the Algalif production facility (Heida Helgadottir for The Washington Post)

The electric red and green glow of the production facility resembles the Icelandic aurora borealis. Algae in their growth stage flow through hundreds of glass tubes that travel from floor to ceiling, all part of a multistep process yielding nutrients for health supplements. Soon, all parts of each alga will be used.

The facility, operated by Icelandic manufacturer Algalif, is a space of inspiration for Julie Encausse, a 34-year-old bioplastic entrepreneur. During a July summer storm, Svavar Halldorsson, an Algalif executive, was guiding her through a tour of the company’s newest facility on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

By the end of 2023, this new facility aims to triple its production. After Algalif dries the microalgae and extracts oleoresin, a third of this output then goes toward health supplements. Algalif has traditionally used the rest as a fertiliser. Now Encausse, founder and chief executive of the bioplastic start-up Marea, hopes to use that leftover biomass to create a microalgae spray that can reduce the world’s reliance on plastic packaging.

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