These worms could solve a global problem

These worms could solve a global problem
The Bodø based company CapiPro wants to use a special type of worm in fish feed. Now they have won a prestigious award for their idea.

– Receiving such recognition from an international audience means a lot. It's fantastic and shows that people believe in what we are doing, says Samson Steindal Vonen, the CEO of CapiPro AS.

On behalf of the company, he recently received the prestigious High North Young Entrepreneur Award – which is a international pitch competition for Arctic business ideas.

The award is usually given during the annual High North Dialogue organized by the High North Center at Nord University. This year though, it was part of Arctic Congress Bodø 2024.

Thus, there were more than 1200 participants from around the world who had the opportunity to vote during the competition, where three finalists were on stage:

  • CapiPro AS from Bodø, for their initiative to utilize polychaete worms as a sustainable marine protein source in fish feed.
  • AirVitalize from Fairbanks, Alaska, for their initiative to improve air quality through new technology.
  • AAVEQ ROBOTICS from Denmark, for their initiative to develop an autonomous sailing drone that can handle waste in the Arctic in a sustainable manner.
HERE HE RECEIVES THE PRIZE: Samson Steindal Vonen from CapiPro. PHOTO: Markus Thonhaugen / High North Center.

Using worms as a source for protein

The winning business idea uses fish sludge from fish farms to breed the polychaete worms. This then becomes a protein source in fish feed.

The aquaculture industry in Norway currently produces over one million tons of fish sludge annually, and in land-based aquaculture, 50 percent of the sludge must be reused, according to an article by Ungt Entreprenørskap. Thus, this idea could help the industry become more circular.

– Where does the idea come from?

– The idea originally came from Akvaplan-niva, a research organization. This has not been done commercially before.

Vonen describes a large global market.

– A market in desperate need for new raw materials. There is a challenge of global protein deficiency, and our product can be part of the solution.

A short video of the worms. Filmed by CapiPro.

Earlier awards

It's not the first time the company has won an award. Last year, they came out on top in a competition where 730 startups from 18 countries participated.

They have also won an award for "Norway's Most Sustainable Student Company".

CapiPro recently also received the news that they are on the list of those receiving a large monetary support from Innovation Norway.

Although the company has received some solid motivational boosts, there are also some challenges along the way. In Norway, it is not allowed to use fish sludge for products that can relate to human food, not even indirectly. So, a law change is required before the business can be fully realized.

– So the short-term market plan is based on sugar kelp which is legal today. We are purposefully working with relevant actors and wish to contribute to more circular value chains both in Norway and the EU.

PITCH: Vonen delivered his pitch during Arctic Congress Bodø 2024. PHOTO: Adrian Svendsen Bensvik.

Submitted the master's thesis

Vonen submitted his master's in Entrepreneurship and Business Development at Nord University on May 24th, where he wrote about regulatory frameworks in the aquaculture industry and how it affects innovation. He is now looking forward to focus 100 percent on the company.

– We are five people, including two interns. We still have a long way to go, but feel confident. We are working towards a goal in the second quarter of 2025 with the first commercial sales to customers.

The master's degree he recently submitted has been very useful.

– Absolutely! For the company's part, it is not certain we would have started up without it. It is a program aimed at helping students succeeding with startup enterprises, and the support we have received along the way has been invaluable.

Member of the jury: Exciting concept

Marius Fagerli from Innovation Norway was a part of the jury who picked out the three finalists.

– This year, the competition was hard with 23 applications from 8 countries.

The entries varied greatly in sector and business model, and the jury faced a major challenge in selecting the best candidates for the finals, he adds.

– Ultimately, the jury settled on three strong concepts, which we considered highly relevant for the Arctic - and with significant innovation potential.

– The winning company has an exciting concept that could help solve some major challenges within aquaculture. We wish them good luck moving forward.

About the High North Young Entrepreneur Award

  • The High North Young Entrepreneur contest is an international pitch competition of Arctic-related business ideas of young entrepreneurs and start-ups.
  • The goal of the contest is to promote the potential and opportunities of the High North for young people and to encourage them to develop their business ideas for the sustainable North.
  • The contest final event is a part of the program of the annual High North Dialogue conference in Bodø, Norway. The award for 2024 was handed out as a part of the Arctic Congress Bodø 2024.
  • At the final session, three finalists have an opportunity to pitch their business ideas to the conference participants on site to win NOK 50 000 funding for their business.

Read more here.