It all started with a question that Yago Sierras asked his friend Guillermo del Barco. “What if we grow algae in the Mediterranean?” They had no idea about the subject, but they had been wanting to start a business for some time and the sector attracted them. They analyzed the situation and saw possibilities, they even opted for the ulva lactuca, a species popularly known as sea lettuce, for its potential for various sectors. They created the Mediterranean Algae company in mid-2021 and now produce one ton annually, which will soon be ten thanks to the new facilities they are developing in Alicante, where they have their laboratories. . They extract the extracts of this species for cosmetics and also sell it fresh and dry as a seasoning for food. Last year they invoiced 50,000 euros and this year they will double that figure. Always with their sights set on growing: they hope to reach their first million in 2025.
Silvia Antón, marine biologist and oceanographer on the team, was the one who chose the algae. And Alejandro Simón arrived later to help emulate Mediterranean conditions on land. “Growing in the sea involved very long procedures and a huge investment, but that solution allowed us to move forward,” says Sierras. This young team — everyone is 27 years old except Guillermo, who is 29 — was also lucky. Without knowing it, they had decided to cultivate an algae that reproduces very easily through fragments of itself. “It grows and, at a certain moment, a part separates, generating another individual,” explains the entrepreneur. A system that has facilitated its development in ponds that are more than salt water: “Many variables have to be controlled.”
In their facilities in the Alicante business incubator Príncipe Felipe and the Scientific Park of the University of Alicante, they take care of their production and then treat it to get the most out of it. On the one hand, they extract the active ingredients from sea lettuce that they sell to laboratories throughout Spain and they even use it for their own line of cosmetics, Siwid Cosmetics. On the other hand, they prepare it to sell it fresh or in seasonings (in grinders similar to pepper grinders) for bars and restaurants. They focus there on sea lettuce, but also on other algae —codium and sea spaghetti, among others—which they acquire from collectors from different parts of the Spanish coast at the request of their Horeca channel clients.
While they were growing, at Cajamar Innova they were given some keys to develop their technology and market their product after first going through an incubator and, later, the accelerator. In parallel, the company – made up of its four founders and a fifth person who is in charge of marketing – participates in different R&D projects with companies in the food sector. Among other issues, they study the introduction of proteins or Omega3 from algae in different products, replacing those of animal origin and improving sustainability. They have also carried out tests in the Port of Alicante for the use of algae to decontaminate waters that they will now extend to other parts of the Mediterranean and have tested it as a biostimulant for agriculture.
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