Ebbas Alger (“Ebba’s Algae”) in Brunskog, a small community in central Värmland, is Scandinavia’s first and only spirulina farm. It is the production site for locally grown, high-quality spirulina, developed to withstand the Swedish winter. The company is now joining Sting Bioeconomy’s incubator programme in order to expand and meet the growing demand.
Spirulina is a subtropical super-alga – full of vitamins, minerals, proteins and antioxidants, and also a popular ingredient in smoothies and salads. Containing over a hundred nutrients, spirulina is often described as the world’s most complete source of nutrition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), spirulina is the food of the future.
The spirulina sold in Sweden, usually imported from China, is often considered to have a bitter taste. But Ebbas Alger has changed that. Since 2016, you can eat Swedish superfood grown in clean drinking water in Värmland, thanks to this startup company. Furthermore, the locally grown spirulina has a mild and pleasant taste, reminiscent of the fifth basic taste: umami. The algae are served either as frozen cubes or in dried form. The drying process is kept below 42 degrees Celsius in order to retain the high nutrient content.
Interest in cultivation, and stubbornness
Founder Ebba Olsson, originally from Helsingborg in the south of Sweden, has always been interested in both food and cultivation, and after graduating as a marine biologist her main interest was, not entirely unexpected, aquaculture. She believes that her interest in cultivation, combined with a lot of stubbornness, was a decisive factor in Ebbas Alger’s rapid move from idea to full-scale production. Since the start, the company’s supply sells out every year, although production has doubled annually.
“Being part of Ebbas Alger is a fantastic journey, but it’s been incredibly challenging. As a pioneer in an industry, you don’t have any ready-made templates. There have been many inventions and much problem-solving. You’ve got to have some kind of a screw loose to dare start a small business and run it persistently for such a long time. I’ve always been told I’m stubborn, and today that’s one of my greatest strengths.”
Another prerequisite for success has been to have a strong team. Karin Stenman, with many years of project-coordination experience, is the company’s business developer.
Tropical algae thrive in Värmland
Ebba bought her first litre of spirulina in 2015, and as the single-celled algae undergo cell division every three days, she has never had to buy more.
Although spirulina usually thrives in subtropical climates, Ebba has, after many years of experimentation, found the best conditions for the algae to survive the Swedish winter.
“I let them hibernate during the winter. But one winter almost an entire pool of algae died, which could have meant I would’ve had to start all over again. However, after a lot of work with different methods, the strongest survived, and they’re the ones that can withstand the Swedish cold.”
Great environmental interest
Another long-time main interest of Ebba’s is the environment. Besides running Ebbas Alger, she works full-time as an environmental coordinator for the Swedish Armed Forces. But if the company develops as she hopes, she will be able to focus completely on her algae farm.
“Environmental thinking drives me. Why import from the other side of the world what we can produce here? Our current goal is to offer locally grown spirulina to Swedes. But the dream scenario five years ahead is that Ebbas Alger, together with a couple of investors, will sell high-quality spirulina both nationally and internationally.
What do you hope to get out of Sting Bioeconomy?
“Sting Bioeconomy is an amazing support in our current situation. This past year, things have started to happen. Investors have showed up, as they see that we’ve been around for a few years and that business is steadily on the rise. We’re in an excellent position: we know our production and we’re ready for the next step. But we need help figuring out how to proceed. We’re looking for speaking partners, support and business counselling.”
Are you an investor, believing that locally grown superfood is the future? Then we would very much like to see you at the A-match investor event, where Ebbas Alger is one of ten companies that will pitch their ideas. Read more at amatch.org
Do you want to know more about the company and the people behind it? Then listen to the latest episode of the Bioeco podcast (in Swedish)!