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Matts Johansen, Chief Executive Officer, Aker BioMarine

Aker BioMarine: Exhibiting Expertise in Holistic Nutrition

Health and Nutrition roots back to the age of the Neanderthals. Nutritional supplements act as an aid, providing us with excellent health and an improved lifestyle. Have you wondered why our ancestors we so fit and strong? Because they ate naturally obtained food. Consumption of natural, sea-obtained food has proved not only beneficial but also disease resistant. Aker BioMarine is a company that offers extraordinary Antarctic Krill supplements to nourish human and planetary health.
Aker BioMarine is a biotech innovator and Antarctic krill harvesting company owned by Aker ASA, an industrial pioneer since its establishment in 1841. The company develops krill-based ingredients for nutraceutical, aquaculture, and animal feed applications.
The company’s fully transparent value chain stretches from sustainable krill harvesting in pristine Antarctic waters through its Montevideo logistics hub, Houston production plant, and all the way to customers around the world.
In the following interview, Matts Johansen, the Chief Executive Officer at Aker BioMarine, shares the company’s journey and a few valuable insights into the nutraceutical industry.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Would you please brief our audience about your company, its values, and how the company has been positioned as a leading player in the nutrition space? 
Aker BioMarine is a biotech innovator and Antarctic krill-harvesting company that develops products for nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, aquaculture, and animal feed applications. As an industry leader for 15 years, we are innovative by nature and are on a mission to improve human and planetary health. We are the fishermen and women as well as the creators, builders, scientists, and business professionals – together, we are the heartbeat of Aker BioMarine.
We believe in a world where all have access to quality nutrition and good health without compromising the future of our planet. To that end, we are taking on global challenges every day and are committed to bringing positive changes to the industry.
Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all, at all ages, is essential to sustainable development, and we are educating others on this. We are continually raising awareness about the importance of omega-3s and the prevention of lifestyle diseases and are proactive in discussing the ramifications of low omega-3 levels, as well as solutions.
Another way we are contributing to human health is by leading the way in science, research and innovation in the krill oil industry. In fact, our science team is venturing into new territories to explore all that krill oil has to offer from a health benefits standpoint.
Our daily responsibility of improving people’s health without compromising the health of our planet and its oceans is critical.
Sustainability is our foundation and a major part of our company DNA. We own and operate our entire value chain from catch to capsule so traceability and transparency are imperative to our business. Our integrity and standards are raising the bar in the dietary supplements industry.
What products does your company offer, and how are these making an impact on the industry and your customers?
Aker BioMarine develops krill-based ingredients for nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, aquaculture and animal feed applications.
Superba Krill oil, Aker BioMarine’s flagship product, is a unique formula extracted from Antarctic Krill to deliver essential omega-3 (EPA & DHA), choline, phospholipids, and astaxanthin with proven effects to improve human health.
QRILL Aqua, a nutrient-rich feed ingredient made from Antarctic krill, helps improve aquaculture efficiency. The QRILL Aqua family helps improve the growth and health of fish, shrimp, and other species in aquaculture. What fish eat is of great importance for fish health and feeds containing krill give many benefits and solve challenges faced in aquaculture.
QRILL Pet is a 100% natural product, made only from whole Antarctic krill. A functional ingredient for pet food, QRILL Pet provides a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, marine proteins and the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin. It offers great benefits for pets including healthy organs, joints and fur.
LYSOVETA is a delivery platform based on LPC-bound EPA and DHA. Aker BioMarine has historically focused on the prevention of lifestyle diseases (nutraceuticals) but is now active in the pharmaceutical space due to key discoveries that led to the development of LYSOVETA. INVI is Aker BioMarine’s new protein ingredient for food and beverages. It is a hydrolyzed krill protein that is highly soluble and dispersible. It is designed for use in a wide range of innovative protein applications that promote healthier eating while also keeping the environment and life on earth safe.
In addition to the product portfolio, we recently launched AION, a sustainable business model innovation that grew out of the company’s ESG ambitions on circularity for plastic waste streams. Through AION, Aker BioMarine connects its solid industrial experience and financial capacity with ambitious innovation into the circular economy of plastics.
Matts, please brief us about your journey in the industry and how you have contributed to the company’s success. 
Before working at Aker BioMarine, I worked in telecoms, completely different from the fishery and biotech industries. I believe that the initial lack of experience in the industry is a positive thing. Given the opportunity to look at things with a new perspective, I have been able to try more things in unique ways, and I feel that it has paid off.
Since inception, Aker BioMarine has always looked for ways to do things differently. There is no question that improving human and planetary health has always been the foundation of the company, and keeping on that track, I have worked with our talented teams on numerous initiatives throughout the years to ensure that the company is continually moving in the right direction.
From science projects to CSR campaigns, we are leading various initiatives that have been instrumental in the krill industry, as well as beyond the krill industry, to help build on the company’s vision for a healthier world. And I believe that all of this would not be possible without our talented 400+ employees across the globe. The key to our success comes from our people. By ensuring that I have the best people for the job and that those people utilize their potential to the fullest, we can make positive changes for everyone.
Being an experienced leader, share your opinion on how the adoption of modern technologies such as AI, big data, and machine learning has transformed the health and wellness industry, and what more could be expected in the near future?
We believe that big data is the future of sustainable fisheries management, giving us better decision-making tools to help positively impact the industry.
Aker BioMarine is digitalizing its harvesting and manufacturing operations to further improve the company’s sustainability efforts. By using live data and machine learning, we can increase our positive handprint while minimizing our carbon footprint.
Sustainable use of the ocean and marine resources is a key part of our company strategy.
To achieve this, we have invested heavily in technology that contributes to more sustainable fishery and fishery management. In order to collect detailed data on the krill biomass, we launched an unmanned solar-powered ocean data drone (Sailbuoy) early in 2020.
In June 2021, we purchased a specially designed USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) from a company called Kongsberg Maritime. This new Sounder USV will help us further reduce our carbon footprint and optimize krill harvesting in Antarctica. The USV is also equipped to collect valuable scientific data.
Taking into consideration the current pandemic and its impact on global economies, how are you driving your company to sustain operations and ensuring the safety of your employees at the same time? 
Throughout the pandemic, we have remained fully focused on our efforts to ensure our employees are safe and healthy. We have also made every effort to continue running our business as usual.
As a globally operating company reliant on a crew at sea in Antarctica, COVID-19 was a completely new and unexpected situation for everyone. Handling it in a good way came down to two very simple things: our people and our culture.
Culture is something that is hard to define, but I think it is best to think about our culture at Aker BioMarine as the unspoken feeling or sense about who we are as a company.
At Aker BioMarine, we decided to put words behind those feelings, in the form of ‘Heartbeats,’ which are the attitudes and behaviors that define us (they include: we think outside the ordinary, we dare to go big, we can do & grind through, we are customer obsessed, we cheer each other on, we give trust & take responsibility, we are transparent, and we have a passion to work hard).
We use the Heartbeats as a guide when hiring new employees, but they are also a reminder for the rest of us that have been here for a while as to what helps drive our success. I am proud to say that I often see each one of these Heartbeats in action on a regular basis, and I saw a major increase during the crisis.
To be able to grind through in difficult times, you need a team that puts in extra effort and these heartbeats have helped guide the way for our teams all over the world. They also helped us feel connected and “as one” in a time that kept us physically apart.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the health and nutrition space?
My best piece of advice in business, and in general, is to take risks and say yes. It is in our human nature to make sure we do not fail, so we sometimes say no because we do not want to fall short of our goal and disappoint others. As a leader in the health and nutrition space at Aker BioMarine, we say yes and are open to new ideas.
During our management meetings, I would rather discuss how we can do it all versus what challenges should we prioritize and take on. If you have an amazing opportunity, you should go for it. Instead of re-prioritizing and choosing only a handful of tasks, reorganize and attack it all. There are so many opportunities, especially in the health and nutrition space, and in order to succeed, you need to get out and do it!
How do you envision scaling your company’s operations and offerings in 2021?
With a growing population, it has never been more important to make healthy food and nutrients available while also keeping our planet’s ecosystem healthy. As a unique and diverse system, the ocean plays a critical role in the world’s future.
We will continue to look at the oceans for opportunities, and we will continue to invest in technology platforms, partnerships, and research to further protect the ocean and environment. Our goal is to provide the best ingredients to everyone and to continue to harvest in the most sustainable way.