Business Irish

Monday 25 June 2018

Killybegs fish protein startup adds Carbery's McSweeney to beef up board

Jason Whooley of BII. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Jason Whooley of BII. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Fearghal O'Connor

Irish marine protein company Bio-Marine Ingredients Ireland (BII) has beefed up its board with the addition of Dan McSweeney, the CEO of food giant Carbery Group.

BII is owned by a consortium of fishermen from Killybegs, Co Donegal. They set it up as a way to create an additional market for their fish, an issue that has taken on a new importance as Brexit threatens the industry.

McSweeney has spent the last 25 years as CEO of Carbery Group and led a transformation there that saw it develop into a market-leading multinational cheese and food ingredient company with a turnover of €380m.

McSweeney's expertise is likely to prove vital to BII as it seeks to develop value-added protein products derived from fish sourced in Irish waters, particularly from blue whiting caught off Donegal.

BII commenced full commercial production at a new €12m marine ingredients processing facility in Lough Egish, Co Monaghan, last year.

BII CEO Jason Whooley, a former head of state agency Bord Iascaigh Mhara, has previously told this newspaper that the company has identified significant opportunities in the Asia-Pacific market for protein fortification. The global protein ingredients market is projected to be worth $39bn by 2020. "BII's mission is to provide an efficient new source of sustainably-produced marine-protein ingredients suitable for human consumption," said Whooley.

"With ongoing food ingredient inflation and a rising demand for quality protein in the food manufacturing sector, there is a strong and increasing demand for marine-derived nutritional and bioactive ingredients which can both substitute and be complementary to vegetable and animal ingredients," he said.

Whooley said that collaborative initiatives are also advanced with a number of Irish universities and negotiations are progressing with some of the major food companies regarding the end product.

BII has also secured planning permission for a second, larger marine-ingredients processing facility in Killybegs which will cost an estimated €35m to develop and will have capacity for 120,000 tonnes of fish. Construction has been provisionally pencilled in to start in 2018, although the company has not confirmed that timeline.

The company is jointly owned by Norwegian firm Biomarine Science Technology and received a €750,000 investment from Enterprise Ireland last year, following an earlier fundraising round that raised €4m.

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