Employer in focus: Marinova
You may not be familiar with the name Marinova, but this Tasmanian family-owned company is the global leader in the development and production of fucoidan (‘few-coy-den’), a bioactive seaweed compound.
Marinova’s high purity fucoidans are sought after by some of the world's most trusted healthcare brands. They are included as premium ingredients in nutritional supplements, functional foods and beverages, skincare and dermatological formulations, and animal health products.
Marinova is currently celebrating 20 years of marine biotechnology.
We spoke with Marketing and Communications Manager, Amanda Mackinnon, to learn more about Marinova, one of our long-term employers.
Marinova is currently celebrating 20 years of scientific research. How did the company begin?
In late 1980s Japanese freight ships frequently visited Tasmania to collect wood chips. Discharged in their ballast water were spores of a brown seaweed called Undaria pinnatifida, commonly known as wakame – a seaweed you might know from miso soup and other Japanese foods.
Undaria thrived in our cool, pristine Tasmanian waters and concerns were raised regarding exactly how this introduced species may affect our local shellfish industry and native seaweeds. To keep this introduced pest in check, the Tasmanian Government issued a licence to harvest Undaria. An exclusive harvest licence was secured by Marinova and the company still holds this licence today.
Did Marinova’s founders, the Garrott family, have a science background?
No, not at all. Interestingly, both Paul Garrott and his father, Geoffrey, are chartered accountants. However, they both share an entrepreneurial flair and a high level of strategic business acumen.
It was through extensive research that they discovered that wakame contained a high value compound called fucoidan that was in demand for its bioactive properties. They then set about building a talented team of scientists and advanced manufacturing experts here in Tasmania.
Marinova developed a proprietary extraction process that sets its fucoidans apart from all others on the market. The company uses unique ‘green chemistry’ techniques to extract the fucoidan from the seaweed. Because of this technology, Marinova stands alone as the world’s only supplier of high purity, certified organic fucoidan with global regulatory acceptance.
Tell us more about fucoidan
Fucoidans occur naturally in brown seaweeds. When you pick up a piece of brown seaweed at the beach, it feels slimy. That slime is fucoidan. It’s highly bioactive and contains all sorts of interesting properties that support gut health, immune function and healthy ageing.
Consumers across the globe are increasingly demanding ingredients that are natural, certified organic, supported by scientific evidence, and that are sustainably sourced. Fucoidan is certainly one of the few ingredients that ticks all those boxes.
Is fucoidan commonly used in Australia?
Fucoidan tends to be well understood in cultures that traditionally consume seaweeds, Japan being an excellent example. We are also starting to see the profile of fucoidan rise here in Australia, as well as across the USA and Europe.
There are now almost 3,000 published scientific papers attesting to the bioactivity of fucoidan and with that evidence is coming more and more interest in its potential health benefits. There are an increasing number of products on the market here in Australia containing fucoidan.
Who are Marinova’s customers?
Marinova is solely business-to-business, hence you won’t see any Marinova-branded products on pharmacy shelves. We sell our fucoidan extracts to companies who then incorporate these ingredients into their finished products.
Marinova supplies some of the world’s most trusted healthcare brands and exports to more than 35 countries across the globe. High purity fucoidan is a high value ingredient and, depending on purity, commands an average price of around $1,500 per kilo.
What makes fucoidan so expensive?
The cost of Marinova’s fucoidan reflects three key factors. Firstly, Marinova only utilises wild grown seaweeds sourced from pristine ocean waters. We harvest from remote locations in Tasmania, Patagonia and Nova Scotia – well away from any sources of human, agricultural or industrial contamination. Interestingly, it takes approximately two hundred kilos of wet seaweed to produce just one kilo of fucoidan.
Secondly, Marinova invests significantly in scientific research to support its fucoidan ingredients. At any one time we may have over 20 research studies underway across the globe – everything from investigations into immune support and gut health through to healthy ageing.
We’ve always backed our extracts with rigorous science and our customers are companies that value the scientific evidence behind their ingredients.
The third factor is the company’s proprietary extraction process. This is unique to Marinova and allows us to produce fucoidans of unrivalled quality and efficacy.
How else is fucoidan being applied?
In addition to being utilised in dietary supplements, fucoidan is also of value to the skincare industry.
Marinova produces two specific fucoidan extracts for topical use in cosmetic products. You’ll find these fucoidan ingredients in everything from moisturisers and night creams through to face masks and gels. Their soothing, protecting and antioxidant properties are quite unique.
Is there enough Undaria in Tasmania for Marinova to continue to be successful?
Undaria is not prolific here in Tasmania, which is good news for our native ecosystem. To ensure we have adequate supplies however, Marinova also harvests Undaria in Patagonia, Argentina. It is an invasive species in South American waters too, so to be able to convert a marine pest into a high value product for the betterment of human health is very exciting.
The company utilises a second species of brown seaweed too. The species Fucus vesiculosus is harvested from the clean waters of Nova Scotia in Canada.
How does Marinova manage waste?
Marinova has always had a genuine commitment to sustainability, and this includes how we manage the waste from our extraction process. The fucoidan extraction process includes both solid and liquid waste. Both of these waste streams are captured and diverted into organic horticultural products. The solids waste is incorporated into an organic potting mix and the liquid waste is used by local growers.
Tell us about your people. Does Marinova have a big team?
Marinova employees about 17 staff. We’re not a huge operation, but we are very specialised. Our team includes experts in biochemistry, pharmacology, chemical engineering, advanced manufacturing, and international marketing, sales and logistics.
What are the benefits of having Spirit Super as your default super fund?
We encourage our staff to engage with their super because it is such an important part of their overall financial wellbeing, but we certainly aren’t the experts in that space.
That’s why we really appreciate the regular on-site visits from Spirit Super.
A lot of our staff don’t have time to travel into the city to visit the Spirit Super office, so it’s really convenient to have a Spirit Super representative come out to us.
It’s also really handy for our staff who are Spirit Super members to have the option of virtual appointments at a time that’s convenient for them.
What’s on the horizon for Marinova?
Marinova’s focus will remain on fucoidan. One thing that’s always been important to Marinova has been to do one thing and to do it well. Of course, there have been opportunities to diversify along the way, but we’ve remained focused on being the global leader in fucoidan and that is where we want to stay.
In this, our twentieth year, we have a significant site expansion currently underway. A $5M redevelopment of our fucoidan extraction facility here in Hobart will see the company triple its production capacity. Further investment in research and development is top of our list too.
Marinova will always be a company focused on science to support its unique ingredients. Fucoidan is a niche field, but one that is very exciting to be involved in.
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