Marine resources: Ireland looks for its whey powder of the sea

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

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The Irish government has invested €5.2m to capitalise on the country's untapped marine biodiversity. 

Declan Troy, assistant director of research at Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, said the initial seven years of the NutraMara programme had been to set the foundations, which was now ready to spring board​ private-public partnerships. 

Troy, who is also director of the government-funded programme, said the main focus had been on fish discards as a source of lipids and carbohydrates as well as macro and micro algae. 

Talking with us at the industry event Vitafoods in Geneva, he said the project sought to mimic the success of Ireland’s dairy industry and build on its research capabilities within food. 

We see 10,000 tonnes of [marine] biomass available that really ends up as pure waste, as fertiliser or low-grade products. The aim of NutraMara is to add value to these by-products and therefore enhance the sustainability of the marine and food industry.​ 

A similar process had been seen in the past for whey, a by-product of the dairy industry used as a source of protein in the food and supplement sector. 

So far the project has employed 30 scientists from various disciplines to create a number of seaweed, marine and microalgae extracts and purified compounds. Troy said there was currently over 100 functional components in the pipeline. 

Sustainable cultivation was also a key focus of the project. 

The fruits of these last seven years will be presented at its conference ‘Harnessing Marine Bio-resources for Innovations in the Food Industry’ at the Royal Dublin Society this month. 

Healthy association 

One part of the programme was to gauge consumer perspectives on marine ingredients. According to NutraMara research, consumers saw marine foods as ‘good for you’. Two examples of this were chitin from crab and prawn shell as an anti-obesity ingredient and seaweed extracts as an antioxidant for use in dairy products. 

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