Unibio decouples protein production from farming and fishing by producing bacterial protein using methane as the main raw material in the fermentation process of its UniProtein product. The company’s number one priority is to commission the first full-scale plant that will produce protein which can be created without involving agriculture or fisheries.
Speaking to Bio-Based World News’ Dave Songer for this week’s 5 Minutes With… is Henrik Busch-Larsen, group CEO at Unibio, who gives more details about those aspirations, what he enjoyed most about World Bio Markets this year and his favourite bio-based product (after UniProtein!)
(DS): You’ve been involved with Unibio for about 12 years and been CEO at the company for six – what does your job entail there?
(BL): I am the entrepreneurial kind of CEO. One of my main jobs building a new bio-industrial company is organising the company to become established in the market and securing the right human resources for us to execute our business model. Developing CAPEX-heavy technology requires a lot of capital, so naturally a lot of my time has been spent on securing funding for the company. Besides funding, you need clients believing in the technology and willing to take first-mover risk. To date we have signed two contracts and we are building the first full-scale plant, a multi-million-dollar project. Crossing the finishing line with this project is, of course, a big part of my job as it will take @uni_bio to the next level.
(DS): What do you enjoy most about working in the bio-based industry?
(BL): Working with a technology that is having such a profound impact on how we can produce protein in the future in something I enjoy immensely. Imagine a future without protein scarcity just by converting methane into a protein product – this potential has really inspired me. How often do you get to work with something that can potentially positively impact so many people’s lives?
(DS): What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced?
(BL): Building a new bio-industrial player in the market is something that requires a lot of capital, teamwork, focus and the right mix of the right people and almost total dedication to the company, leaving little time for hobbies! It’s all very challenging, but I would say the biggest challenge was to secure our first client for the technology.
(DS): What advice would you give someone looking to get started in the bio-based industry?
(BL): You really need to have a long-term perspective, and you really need to be able to stay motivated by more than just earning your pay cheque. So, my main advice would be to stay focused, be persistent and make sure you are driven by what you bring to the market more than what the market eventually brings you.
(DS): Where would you like to see Unibio in ten years’ time?
(BL): In ten years Unibio will be an established player in the methane-to-protein market, having already brought hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Uniprotein to the world market. Uniprotein has become a well-known protein product that is used widely in the compound feed industry.
(DS): You recently had a visit from the minister for food security and the Danish Ambassador, what more can you tell me about that?
(BL): We recently went to the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) in Abu Dhabi to strengthen our position on the Middle Eastern market and establish new relations to potential customers and investors. The aim of the visit from the Minister of Food Security, H.E. Mariam Saeed Hareb al Muhair and H.E. Mrs. Merete Juhl, Danish Ambassador to the UAE, was to discuss how Danish innovations in sustainable food production can help to overcome the food challenges faced by the growing regional population.
The Unibio technology is especially relevant for the Gulf Region which is importing most of their food products. At the same time, they have access to natural gas locally that makes it possible for them to produce huge amounts of proteins using little water and no agricultural land. Our aim is to find partners in the region with access to capital and natural gas.
(DS): You spoke at this year’s World Bio Markets in Amsterdam and have previously done so at Bio-Based Live – what do you most enjoy about the conferences? What will you talk about in 2018?
(BL): Having the opportunity to talk about something that you are passionate about is always something that to enjoy. This year I spoke about a potential future project where we tap into gas otherwise to be flared and turning that methane gas into Uniprotein. The potential is huge, as the gas which today is just adding to global warming can be turned into a protein product for a market in dire need of protein and food products.
(DS): What is your favourite bio-based product and why?
(BL): I am a big fan of biodegradable plastic products as I am really concerned about the amount of plastics accumulating in the oceans, so any technology that can help address this issue is something that I am really interested in… besides Uniprotein, naturally.
(DS): Thanks very much, Henrik. It’s great news that you got so much out of World Bio Markets.
Read the last 5 minutes with… Charles Dimmler, CEO of Checkerspot.
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