Zivo has followed a long and winding road, having first started life as company known as Health Enhancement Products Inc. HEPI was said to be developing a number of bioactive molecules from a proprietary species of algae. It seems to be common in the algae industry, though, that however promising the concept, the goal of market entry continues to recede in the distance like a desert mirage. CEO Andrew Dahl came on board in 2012 with a brief to rationalize the product development process.
Last year, the company announced a strategic shift toward marketing an ingredient based on the whole algal biomass as a path to market with a shorter development cycle. With its interesting blend of high protein content (47%) and a rich suite of vitamins and minerals and reportedly mild taste, the ingredient was touted as a potential base for ‘green’ health drinks as well as a potential feed additive for poultry. At that time the company had engaged Burdock Group to work up a GRAS dossier on the material.
Deal with SGI on production development
Earlier this year Zivo entered into an agreement with a company called Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) to do further processing development on the algae cultivation method. Zivo’s model has always been to license the specific species and the growing technology, rather than grow the biomass itself, but the approach does add in some complication, Dahl admitted.
“We are still finishing up our GRAS submission. We hoped we would have been done by now, but we have had to reconfigure some of our stability parameters,” Dahl told NutraIngredients-USA.
Algae ingredients have always had a ‘back to the source’ type message; in other words, some molecules of interest, be they omega-3s, carotenoids like astaxanthin, or others, originate in these one-celled plants first and then make their way into the food chain. But making that message work at commercial scale relies on chemical process efficiencies which can be difficult to pin down. In Zivo’s case, Dahl said development continues to be done on the drying process for the ingredient, and that needs to be specified as part of the GRAS dossier.
“We have been experimenting for the past few months with different drying techniques that then will become part of the GRAS submission. Not only are we looking at those that will the most economically viable, but those that best protect the unique qualities of the product,” Dahl said.
Poultry trial, test run in Europe
All of that requires patience, especially on the part of investors. Zivo seems to have the confidence of its backers, having successfully restructured its debt earlier this year with its primary creditor, HEP Investments. The new deal puts the maturity date out to September of 2018 and allows Zivo to tap into an additional $4.5 million in credit.
In addition to the debt restructuring and the tolling production deal with SGI, Zivo has also announced a feed trial in poultry. And a second grower has come on board in the form of a production development deal with Spanish algae producer Algatek Asturias SL for potential entry into the European markets.