A $200 million investment between two international companies to make omega-3 oil from natural marine algae was celebrated Wednesday with the grand opening of their new production plant on the biocampus in Blair.

Veramaris, a joint venture between German-based Evonik and Royal DSM of the Netherlands, will support sustainable growth in aquaculture. The facility will produce omega-3 fatty acids for animal nutrition without using fish oil from wild-caught fish.

“Today marks a great day for Veramaris and the world's oceans,” Veramaris General Manager Neil Leininger said during a ceremony held at Cottonwood Cove and Marina. “After years of research and almost two years of construction, we now have the ability to produce enough EPA and DHA equivalent to that derived from 1.2 million tons of wild-caught fish each year.”

The oil produced in Blair will be shipped to salmon farms in Norway, Peru and Scotland.

“Here in Blair, Nebraska, United States, the German and Dutch companies together with you folks in the U.S. are writing history,” said Feike Sijbesma, CEO of Royal DSM.

Veramaris' breakthrough process uses dextrose from corn to feed the algae strain called Schizochytrium ssp. The unique strain of natural marine algae is rich in both EPA and DHA, fatty acids that are essential for good health for both fish and people.

The levels of EPA and DHA in farmed salmon have declined significantly over the past 10 years, according to the company. Veramaris' algal oil contains twice as much EPA and DHA as fish oil so it can reverse the decline and support the salmon brand-promise for healthy nutrition.

The production will also help conserve marine life.

“This marks a huge step in conserving the biodiversity of the oceans,” Leininger said.

The zero-waste facility was completed in May and is set to ramp up for full production this year.

The initial annual production will meet roughly 15 percent of the current total demand for EPA and DHA in the salmon aquaculture industry.

The plant's waste will be used for beef cattle feed.

Johann-Caspar Gammelin, chairman of the board of management for Evonik, said he is “more than proud” of the project and the people who committed to seeing it to fruition.

“We're very thankful to each and every contribution from all workers,” Gammelin told the Enterprise. “On the Blair side, we are more then proud for the huge support we received from the Nebraska authorities headed by Gov. (Pete) Ricketts. We are more than glad to now have a great story in further developing our Blair site.”

Ricketts touted the opening of the plant as a testament to the state's reputation as “a great place for bioscience firms to invest and to grow.”

“It's an exciting day for Evonik, an exciting day for DSM, but an even more exciting day for Nebraska to be a part of this innovation,” he said.

Evonik and Royal DSM each invested $100 million in the creation of Vermaris, which adds to Nebraska's growing resume of success in recruiting bioscience innovators to the state, a press release from the governor's office said.

Today, Nebraska is home to more than 1,000 bioscience companies, which employ more than 16,000 Nebraskans.

The state's success in the bioscience sector can be attributed to a number of factors, including farmers' output of agricultural commodities like corn, soybeans and other ingredients essential to biofuel. State legislators and public sector stakeholders have also devoted considerable energy into creating a climate where bioscience firms can grow and thrive.

“Nebraska offers some of the best strategic business advantages in the country for bio industry firms and startups,” Department of Economic Development Director Dave Rippe said in a press release. “It's no surprise that our state is attracting the attention of some of the world's most innovative companies like Veramaris. Our goal moving forward is to keep nurturing that momentum to grow the economy and create incredible job and career opportunities for our people.”

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