"In the old days, people used fish waste as fertiliser and that's where we got the idea," says Halgeir Jakobsen, potato producer, Ottar Board Member and General Manager of Tromspotet.
Ottar is the organisation for North Norwegian potato growers. The organisation is collaborating with Stella Polaris, which produces peeled shrimps and large quantities of waste in the form of shrimp shells.
Chitin in shrimp shells
Shrimp shells contain nutrients in high concentrations - and in compositions which are extremely favourable as fertiliser.
The substance chitin, which has a documented effect on plant health, is also found in shrimp shells. The substance can hamper fungus growth and activate natural defence mechanisms in plants.
From a research prospective, Fiskeriforskning in Bergen is developing a technique for the production of pellets from shrimp waste and process water.
The pellets need to be used in equipment, which is commonly used by today's farmers. Another project collaborator is Bioforsk Nord, which is researching the shrimp shell's influence on potato growth and disease.
"Utilising shrimp shells as ecological fertiliser will provide environmental benefits and increased added value of what has previously been the waste from the production of peeled shrimps," says Jaran Rauø from Stella Polaris.
The government's target is for 15 percent of food production and food consumption in Norway to be ecological by 2015. However, access to animal manure is insufficient and, as a result, other alternatives are necessary.
"We have a major advantage in Northern Norway when it comes to agriculture," says Jakobsen.
"The cold climate offers poor growth conditions for some pests, which in other parts of the country require intensive spraying with chemicals."
Tromspotet has a vision that before too long the North Norwegian potato will be ecological.
"We want to establish an environment for ecological production of potatoes and vegetables," says Jakobsen.
"We are totally reliant on access to ecological fertiliser. At the same time, waste from the shrimp industry is currently a problem. This project will create a win-win situation for agriculture in the north."
The project is also being financed by the Research council of Norway/The Food Programme, Troms County Council, Bardu Municipal Council and Lenvik Municipal Council. Sparebanken Nord-Norge has also donated funding for the project, as have the participating companies.