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Q&A with Øystein Lie: Flying like an albatross, never landing!

Professor Øystein Lie plans to continue his impact role in the blue economy.  The albatross is his ispiration, flying, not landing!  Photo: Gorm K. Gaare.

Professor Øystein Lie plans to continue his impact role in the blue economy.  The albatross is his ispiration, flying, not landing!  Photo: Gorm K. Gaare.

After three years working as faculty dean occupied with shaping the new Norwegian University of Life Sciences NMBU, professor Øystein Lie once again leaves academia to explore the blue economy  as an impact player.  The entrepreneur, innovator, networker and businessman will do like the albatross. Flying and never landing.

 

This interview is not only about looking back on a career in life sciences and aquaculture business over decades. As always when talking with Øystein Lie, it's about the future challenges. 

 

Blue Frontier Magazine: You are about to enter a new stage in your career, and as we understand it is not about retirement and living the good life?

Øystein Lie: The good life comes with being on the move. I am formally a pensioner, but I am not retired!

  

BFM:  You have "grown up" in the science-based business of aquaculture, what are your reflections on the development in this, now global and prospering, business?

ØL: I like to consider the whole ocean and aquatic space, not just aquaculture, and take an ecosystem and circular economy approach where harvest in fishery and culturing in aquaculture go hand in hand and develop interdependently in the marine and aquatic sector.

It has been in the hands of mankind for thousands of years to provide important food supply in addition to the terrestrial production, although still a lot behind since it will take time to move the 150 million blue tons up to the land based vast volumes of multi billions. The industrial and science and technology intensive segment of aquaculture is however now displaying annual growth above all other food segments and with its comparatively low footprint impact and positive health effects, seafood is a prime candidate to address not just global food supply needs but also life style diseases etc.

The culturing bio industries will always suffer from losses since harboring a so delicate live part and since there is a continuous development of new management regimes, installing new species and not just salmonids, the major challenges are thus expected to stay the same with disease control, finding sustainable feedstock and environmental impacts. However, we have all reasons to be optimistic since there are plenty of good examples on how science, technology together with creative entrepreneurs and managers have been able to combat diseases and provided solutions to immense historic challenges.

 

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It will take time to move the 150 million blue tons up to the land based vast volumes of multi billions.

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In fisheries similar revolutions have taken place, not least within green fishing technology developments in propulsion, emission, fuel efficiency, more sustainable fishery regimes like eco fisheries.

Exciting and fast growing segments of the marine sector are also the marine ingredients bio refinery industry and the bio prospecting parts taking sustainable advantage of side streams of the existing production from fisheries and aquaculture, culturing and harvesting new species like micro and macro algae, krill, calcaneus and also of the genetic marine resources and addressing a vast array of product lines like food and feed ingredients, nutraceutical, drugs, biomaterials, energy and remediation.

Circular bio economy is the news buss word and there is a lot of substance behind.

  

BFM: For every achievement the business has made, there are ten-fold new issues to solve.  No end for the need of new solutions?

 

ØL: That is a never ending story. No one will ever reach to the ultimate bio business. There is always needs for improvements on cost efficacy and footprint. The most powerful innovation machine is the interplay between demanding manufacturers as problem owners and creative solution providers.

 

BFM: What is, in your opinion, the ten greatest achievements in the blue sector?

ØL:

  1. Combating major devastating diseases in salmonid aquaculture like cold water fibrosis
  2. Developing impressive genetic gains in aquaculture breeding of a series of species as salmonids, tilapias, shrimp and shell fishes, with the Norwegian players in the lead
  3. Reducing salmon killer number one, infectious pancreas necrosis (IPN) down to a minimum over few years applying marker assisted selection
  4. Closing the life cycle of a series of industrial important aquaculture species making them ready for industrial culturing
  5. Developing industrial scale feed volumes for the fast growing aquaculture
  6. Solving crucial elements of feed technologies to address delicate juvenile feeding, lowest possible feed conversion and nutrition needs
  7. Developing sheltered fishing vessels, revolutionizing human safety
  8. Developing novel fishing vessel propulsion systems for fuel cost efficiency, lowered foot print and reduced emissions
  9. Developing sustainable fishing regimes based on state of the art harvesting technologies and management regimes
  10. Developing a marine ingredients industry of global format

Story contiues below the picture.

Professor Øystein Lie with a clear view on the challenges for the blue sector economy. Picture: Gorm K. Gaare.

Professor Øystein Lie with a clear view on the challenges for the blue sector economy. Picture: Gorm K. Gaare.

 

 

BFM: ...and what is the ten biggest issues and challenges for the blue sector in the near and long term future?

ØL:   I’ll give you a few more:

Four in aquaculture:

1) Disease control

2) Find and sustainably exploit feed resources

3) Control of environmental impact

4) Communicate to strengthen reputation of trust

Three in fisheries:

1) Eco fishery/multi trophic harvest: We need to work harder establishing harvesting and management regimes to move from few to more species, lower pressure on each to avoid overfishing of the few, and addressing the ocean ecosystem with eco fisheries, harvest sustainably balanced at different trophic levels. Stop all illegal fishing and IUU fishing. More use of traceability and incentives.

2) Circular resource friendly harvest and exploitation: Avoid bycatch unless utilizing and stop discards. Establish the “circular economy” .

3) Provide incentives to more “green fishing vessels” developing more sustainable fishery.

Three in nonfood industries:

1) Bio actives

2) Bio materials

3) Bio energy

A vast and hyper-diverse field embracing natural, cultured, conversed and engineered organisms and biomass, some of which from side streams of food and bio production and bio refinery industries and some of which from bio discoveries and bioprospecting with resulting synthesis.

All of which giving rise to a correspondingly diverse array of product lines of nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, natural bio actives, enzymes for research and industry, ingredients, food supplements, bio materials, bio energy, bio ethanol, bio petrol and other biofuels. The ultimate one hydrogen which can be derived from micro algae through a metabolic pathway called bio photolysis.

Although this diverse sector is fast growing and the blue one having may be the greatest potentials since tens of thousands of un- or underexplored vertebrates and millions of invertebrate species and plants constitute an enormous genetic diversity, it is a long term and science and technology intensive area which is severely under supported with funds and risk capital.

An important part of this field also has long-standing biomedical traditions with some path breaking scientific discoveries and medical applications. Hence, the empirics argue for strengthening the basic research of excellent groups.

This sector needs

1) More long term patient capital and funding

2) Strengthen basic research

3) Improve exploitation of side streams of the bio production

Three in ocean health:

Global ocean living resources throughout the entire food chain; virus, bacteria, fungi, phytoplankton, microalgae, zoo plankton, tunicates, mollusks, worms, crustaceans, microalgae, bony fishes, mammals represent an annual net biomass reproduction of several hundred billion tons.

We need to turn classical and species narrow upper trophic level fisheries into sustainable multitrophic “eco fisheries”. The health of the ocean are threat with invasive species, overfishing, escaped cultured fish, plastics, industrial disposals of heavy metals, toxic chemicals, bio pollutants, xenobiotics, emerging pollutants of endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals, nanomaterials, oil spills, acidification due to climate change.

To help out turn this trend should therefore be one of the major tasks of OECDs marine strategies and develop strong international agreements on sustainable ocean governance and enforcements of such.  We need to employ the best available biotechnologies and further develop such to monitor all relevant ocean environment parameters with biosensors and use of microbial based remediation.

We need to:

1) Install more sustainable practices and processes in the industries through incentives.

2) Develop more bio degradable substitutes like bio plastics.

3) Stimulate biotech intensive solution providers and vendors in the field, also through incentives and risk relieves.

 

To take on all these tasks we need to change culture to become more conscious about our alternatives to the risk route jeopardizing our most important riches.  It will take time, but these important instruments available will and must be implemented.

Potentials to be harvested for innovation across all above mentioned sectors and more can be exploited to the maximum through the untapped synergy between biomarine and maritime sectors and competencies for long term sustainable innovations and solutions. Norway is blessed with a unique competitive position here. 

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 The banning of using transgenic models in basic research has prevented the enhancement of knowledge.

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BFM:  New solutions to secure the world a sufficient amount of protein and omga3 has been among your slogans.  But it is barely mentioned by contenders for power, e.g., the US presidential race, how come food is not a political issue?

 ØL: Politics is not necessarily equal to addressing the most important issues. It is also very much about opportunism.

 

BFM: Norwegian scientists were stopped 30 years ago researching the possible use of GMO in fish farming.  Now a GMO salmon is approved by US food & drugs.  Will GMO feed and food be the future solution for a sustainable, disease-less aquaculture?

ØL: Research on GMO and transgenic fish was not just stopped because of its potential employment in aquaculture. The bad thing was the “moratorium” or banning of using transgenic models in basic research, thus preventing enhancing knowledge. It will become one out of many solutions once provided safely introduced.

 

BFM:  You have the last couple of years been deeply involved in the reorganizing and preparations for the new bio university campus in Ås outside Oslo.  Billions NOK are invested in a powerhouse for educating a new breed of knowledge heavy professionals.  Your reflections on how knowledge and science can prosper as business in the future, on a global basis and across the disciplines?

ØL: It is an expensive way of developing veterinary medicine and bioscience but the investments can be justified provided also a robust innovation ecosystem is installed!

 

BFM: What will be your modus operandi moving from academia this fall?

ØL:  Flying like an albatross, never landing.

 

 

Note: Øystein Lie is chairman of Blue Frontier Media AS, the publisher of Blue Frontier Magazine. Following a brife summary of Lie's merits:

Current:

Dean Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Bio Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Founder GenoMar AS, Founder MarLife, Co-Initiator Holberg Triton, Chair Blue Frontier Media AS, Board member BICA, Board member North Atlantic Seafood Forum

Education:

Graduated vet.med. (DVM), Norwegian School of Veterinary Sciences, Oslo 1973. Dr.scient. (PhD) in Quantitative Genetics, Norwegian School of Veterinary Sciences, Oslo and Agricultural University, Ås, 1979. Dr. med. vet. Immunogenetics, Norwegian School of Veterinary Sciences, Oslo 1986.

Milestones:

After veterinary school Øystein Lie was employed in private an public veterinary service 1973-75, then he was PhD student at Norwegian School of Veterinary Sciences and Institute of Animal Sciences, Agricultural Univesity of Norway 1975-78 (today merged as NMBU).

1978-88:  Establishing and chairing Immunogenetics Lab., National Veterinary Institute, Oslo.

1983:       Visiting Scientist, Department of Immunology, Roslin Institute, Edinburgh.

1985-90:   Director R&D, Chair, Animal Science Section of the National Biotechnology Program, Norwegian Research Council.

1990-98:   Professor in Genetics, Norwegian School of Veterinary Sciences, Oslo.

1994-1995: Visiting Professor, Center for Molecular Genetics, University of California, San Diego

1996:          Founder of the Marine Genomics Company, BioSoft AS, now GenoMar AS

1994-1998: Initiating and chairing the International Research Consortium, SALMAP, with successful EU grants, aiming at mapping economical important genes of salmonid fishes.

1996-2004: Chief Executive Officer, GenoMar ASA

2004-2007:  Chief Scientific Officer, GenoMar ASA

2007-current: Founder and CEO of the innovation network MarLife.

2011-current: Chairperson Blue Frontier Media AS

2010-2012: Chairman of North Atlantic Seafood Forum AS www.nor-seafood.com

2014-current: Dean Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Biosciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

A series of national and international services, memberships and chairmanships,   research papers, invited talks and chapters in books within genetics.

Some selected Board memberships over time: Norwegian Research Council, GenoMar AS, North Atlantic Seafood Forum AS, BICA, AlkyMar AS, Chair and co-founder Blue Frontier Media.

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