Despite being a small, remote island, Iceland leads the world in sustainable fisheries. In fact, throughout history, fishing has been the “lifeline of the nation”, according to Visit Iceland, both as its main food supply and as its chief export product. Over 90% of fish catch in Iceland is certified as responsible.
In 2018, Seattle Fish Company launched a partnership with Niceland Seafood, then a startup out of Reykjavik, as they were opening their United States headquarters in Denver. Niceland is led by Oliver Luckett, former Head of Innovation for Disney and Chairman of Niceland, and Heiða Helgadóttir, an Icelandic political entrepreneur and CEO of Niceland.
What makes Niceland unique is that they are the “first turn-key provider of fresh Icelandic fish to offer full traceability from ‘sea-to-pan'”. Every Niceland Seafood package is labeled with a QR code that provides access to their TraceabiliT™ system. Once scanned, the QR code shows the retailer (and end purchaser) the individual journey of that particular product from fishing grounds (or fish farm) to the store, including flight tracking. Niceland only sources fish from fisheries or farms with MSC or ASC certification.
“It enables consumers and chefs to understand the provenance and to show transparency behind the sourcing. It is linking the product to the people and communities behind it,” said Derek Figueroa in a 2018 interview with The Denver Post, on Niceland’s TraceabiliT™ system.
In November 2021, Seattle Fish Company Marketing Coordinator Savanna Ronco visited Iceland on a personal vacation, but was able to meet up with Frosti Gnarr, Creative Director of Niceland Seafood, for a tour of the local seafood industry.
The first stop of the day was Matorka Sustainable Aquaculture in Grandavik, a town with over a thousand years of seafood tradition. In Icelandic, “mat” means food and “orka” means energy, so the company name translates to “Food Energy”. Matorka’s operations run on sustainable, geothermal energy (the same kind that powers nearby popular tourist destination The Blue Lagoon) and any carbon footprint they produce is offset by tree planting.
Matorka produces arctic char and steelhead trout from egg to harvest. All of the fish are raised without chemicals or hormones and are fed a high quality, sustainable diet (the company maintains a 1:1.2 Feed Conversion Ratio). The company is consistently growing, adding new tanks and technology to ensure they are able to meet the growing demand without compromising their mission.
Savanna and Frosti then visited two processing plants that Niceland works closely with, including Matorka’s processing facility and Íslenskt Sjávarfang. Both facilities were kind enough to give a full tour, introduce their hardworking staff and answer questions on their daily operations.
The two then went to the Iceland Ocean Cluster, which was Savanna’s personal favorite part of the trip. The Cluster is located in downtown Reykjavík and is essentially a co-working space for those working in the marine industries (or what they call in Iceland the “blue economy”). Their mission is to “create value by connecting together entrepreneurs, businesses and knowledge in the marine industries”. Think WeWork but just for those in the seafood industry to collaborate on ideas over a cup of coffee or after-work cocktail at the on-site bar.
There are over 20 members of the Cluster, many of which are start-ups working to develop offerings made from the by-products of the fishing industry. Some of the most interesting products made by current or past Cluster members are bandages made from fish skin, Collab collagen beverages, and Feed the Viking stews and jerky. But these were just a small percentage of the innovative products that have come out of the Ocean Cluster – in fact, there was a full display table of products that are sold in Iceland and around the world.
“The trip to Iceland, particularly the day I spent with Frosti, was eye-opening and incredibly inspiring,” says Savanna. “It was thrilling to meet so many people involved in the industry who are so passionate about their trade. The Ocean Cluster was particularly exciting to experience so many young businesses working to innovate inside of the local seafood industry, finding ways to utilize byproducts and create a more sustainable future. Thank you to Frosti and the Niceland team for your hospitality!”
For more information on Niceland Seafood or their products, speak to your Seattle Fish sales representative!
Iceland Responsible Fisheries for the benefit of future generations | responsiblefisheries.is
Niceland Seafood, an Iceland start-up, chooses Denver as its U.S. headquarters (denverpost.com)
Home | Matorka | Grindavik, Iceland
Íslenskt sjávarfang (sjavarfang.is)
Iceland Ocean Cluster (Sjavarklasinn) | European Cluster Collaboration Platform