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How to Make Live Fish Transportation Sustainable

Novozymes, a biotechnology company that does everything from building better biofuels to removing trans fats in foods, has figured out how to sustainably transport large amounts of live fish across long distances. (Hint: Microorganisms sure help.)

Shortnose Sturgeon

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Novozymes, a biotechnology company that does everything from building better biofuels to removing trans fats in foods, has figured out how to sustainably transport large amounts of live fish across long distances.

The company’s venture into live fish transportation came about as part of a partnership with Aqualife, a Danish cleantech logistics company that specializes in the global fishing industry. When a caviar production facility in Abu Dhabi asked Novozymes if it could transport 140 metric tons of live sturgeon from Germany, the company had a solution: move the fish by sea freight using specially designed Aqualife containers and Novozymes’ microorganisms.

This is a departure from conventional methods of live fish transportation–for example, lobsters are transported by air freight at low temperatures–without water. “By
finding the right microorganisms that change some of the molecules in the
water into less harmful molecules, we can expand the period of time
where fish and marine animals can stay in the same water,” explains Thomas Videbæk, Executive Vice President at Novozymes.

In this case, Novozymes selected a group of microorganisms that adjust the ammonia levels in water, lengthening the amount of time that sturgeon can stay in the same water without getting harmed by waste buildup. As a result, the company was able to perform the largest-scale transport of live fish ever, all while slashing 90% of CO2 emissions compared to conventional live fish transportation methods.

“It’s good business for us, and at the same time we find better ways of
transporting food, keeping seafood fresh for extended periods of
time, and the environmental impact is significant,” says Videbæk.

It is, of course, most sustainable to only eat locally produced food. But the global appetite for caviar and lobster isn’t likely to decline any time soon. And Novozymes’ microorganisms can lower the carbon footprint of transportation.

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Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Ariel Schwartz can be reached by email.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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