Halland Tech Week sätter Halland på tech-kartan
Micha Björck är utvecklingsledare på Alexanderssoninstitutet Varberg och en av huvudarrangörerna bakom Halland Tech Week.
Halland Tech Week är en av de mest spännande årliga tech-händelserna i Halland. Invest in Halland har nöjet att prata med Micha Björck, utvecklingsledare på Alexanderssoninstitutet i Varberg och en av huvudarrangörerna bakom eventet. Hon berättar mer om årets program och varför eventet har blivit en viktig plattform.
Kan du berätta lite om bakgrunden och syftet med Halland Tech Week? Vad var det som ledde fram till att evenemanget skapades?
– Vi vill med evenemanget Halland Tech Week sätta Hallandsregionen på kartan inom det nationella och internationella tech- communityt. Halland Tech Week ska lyfta fram den tech-scen som finns här och visa på konkreta möjligheter med ny teknik och digitalisering.
Hur har Halland Tech Week utvecklats sedan starten, och hur har det påverkat tech-branschen i Halland?
– Halland Tech Week har sedan starten fått en trogen publik och ett starkt varumärke. Vi har arbetat mycket med att förtydliga programmet genom att dela upp veckan på fyra olika kommuner med var sitt tydliga tema. Evenemanget har gett näringslivet ett återkommande smörgåsbord av kompetensutveckling och nätverkande kopplat till ny teknik, digitalisering och affärsutveckling. Dessutom arbetar vi för att sätta Halland på kartan inom tech-communityt nationellt och internationellt.
Vilka är de största utmaningarna som tech-branschen står inför just nu?
– Kompetensförsörjningen, alltså att hitta nya medarbetare, är branschens största utmaning. Ett av syftena med Halland Tech Week är att skapa ett forum där vi kan visa upp intressanta bolag och arbetsplatser i Halland får regionen möjligheten att behålla och attrahera arbetskraft och kompetens.
Att lära av varandra är en stor möjlighet. Halland Tech Week bidrar till mer samverkan mellan olika företag och branscher så att de kan stötta, inspirera och lyfta varandra. Fotograf: Natalie Greppi
Halland Tech Week har gett näringslivet ett återkommande smörgåsbord av kompetensutveckling och nätverkande kopplat till ny teknik, digitalisering och affärsutveckling.
Vad ser du som de största möjligheterna för tech-branschen i Halland framöver? Hur kan evenemanget bidra till att realisera dessa möjligheter?
En av de största möjligheterna i en konkurrensutsatt bransch som ständigt är i förändring är att lära av varandra. Halland Tech Week skall bidra till mer samverkan mellan olika företag och branscher så att de kan stötta, inspirera och lyfta varandra.
Kan du dela med dig av några höjdpunkter från årets program under Halland Tech Week?
Höjdpunkten i årets program är den fantastiska bredden av ämnen allt från robotar till algodling. I programmet finns det något för alla, både en allmän trendspaning och mer tekniskt avancerade event.
Vilka typer av deltagare eller besökare hoppas ni locka till Halland Tech Week? Är evenemanget öppet för alla, oavsett bakgrund eller erfarenhet?
Halland Tech Week riktar sig till hela det halländska näringslivet, det är kostnadsfritt och är öppet för alla.
Halland Tech Week är öppet för alla och riktar sig till hela det halländska näringslivet. Programmet innehåller en bredd av ämnen, allt från robotar till algodling. Fotograf: Natalie Greppi
Kan du dela med dig av några roliga eller minnesvärda ögonblick från tidigare år av Halland Tech Week?
– Förra årets premiär av eventet Business, Bike & Beer var mycket lyckat. Då cyklade vi runt till ett antal företag i form av en after work där vi fick ta del av deras verksamhet, dricka gått och umgås under avslappnade former. Detta event återkommer även i år.
Hur har samarbeten och nätverkande spelat en roll i utvecklingen av Halland Tech Week och tech-branschen i regionen?
– Halland Tech Week samskapas med hjälp av en projektledare som håller ihop evenemanget. Arrangörerna som består av företag, nätverk och kommuner har en koordinerande och självstyrande roll kopplat till sin specifika programpunkt. Arrangemanget skapar ett regionalt sammanhang och bygger nätverk kopplat till tech.
Avslutningsvis, om du skulle ge en kort uppmaning till de som överväger att delta i Halland Tech Week i år, vad skulle det vara?
– Samhället utvecklas snabbt och Halland Tech Week ett utmärkt tillfälle för både en allmän orientering och en fördjupad teknikkompetens. I det breda programmet finns något för alla; kompetensutveckling på hemmaplan, nätverkande och trendspaningar.
Fungi-based proteins from Halland: A game-changer revolutionizing the food industry
Ram Nair, the visionary founder and CEO of Mycorena in front of the new factory in Falkenberg, Halland.
Discover Ram Nair and his team at Mycorena, pioneers of a unique food alternative that goes beyond vegetarian or meat substitutes. They’re making impressive strides toward their goal with substantial investments in a cutting-edge factory located in Falkenberg. This state-of-the-art facility will pave the way for the production of Promyc, their innovative fungi-based food, by establishing a brand-new infrastructure.
Ram Nair, the visionary founder and CEO of Mycorena, embarked on this journey based on his extensive research in biotechnology during his PhD. Today, Mycorena stands as one of Europe’s leading foodtech companies.
Investing in innovation
To fuel their growth, Mycorena has sought strategic investments. Ram Nair, who has a deep-rooted fascination with fungi, recognized the unexplored potential in the food industry. Mycorena works with unique fungi strains, which they call ”super fungi.” This distinctive focus has driven them to develop specialized equipment and collaborate with Tetrapak for their fermentation units.
Thriving in Falkenberg
Choosing Falkenberg as the site for their new factory was a strategic move. The region showed immediate interest in attracting food companies, boasting a strong food culture and established collaborations with large food producers in Sweden. Falkenberg became an ideal fit for Mycorena to flourish.
“Falkenberg showed great interest really from day one, they had been wanting to bring food companies to their region and they have many long-standning collaborations with large food producers in Sweden. So, in that context, we’re very glad to come down here to the south where food is in the DNA,” Ram Nair says.
A sustainable and protein-rich alternative
Mycorena’s fungi-based food innovation offers a sustainable and high-protein alternative to traditional animal, plant, soy, or pea-based products. Their fungi-based protein, Promyc, surpasses the protein content of regular mushrooms. With a chicken fillet-like appearance and easy transformation into minced meat or other forms, Promyc stands out among its competitors.
Our fungi has a lot more protein than a traditional mushroom. And when produced, the root structure, mycelium, looks and grows like a cotton thread in water. When we take it out of the liquid and remove the water, it looks exactly like a chicken filet. And that’s how it differs from pea or soy-based protein. For example, pea is made into a powder and is then texturized. We have no need for that process with our fungi, which means we can go directly from fermentation to have it look exactly like a chicken filet. We can also make it into minced meat very easily.
Promyc: The ”Quite Boring Ingredient”
Mycorena brands its product Promyc as a ”quite boring ingredient,” which might seem odd at first glance. However, this tagline emphasizes its versatility as a blank canvas for adding flavors during cooking. Unlike products with inherent flavors and numerous additives, Promyc provides a clean-label ingredient with minimal additional ingredients.
Plant based meat with a unique fungi-based fat ingredient that can enhance taste similarly to fat in animal meat, taking plant-based meat to the next level.
Halland: A home for food innovation
Ram Nair considers Halland and Falkenberg as their true home. The region’s vibrant food community and extensive knowledge make it an ideal place for Mycorena’s food innovation to thrive. They value the local collaborations and deep-rooted food expertise found in Halland and southern Sweden.
“In the beginning, we looked at several regions where we could position ourselves with our product. We found Halland and Falkenberg the most interesting because, as I mentioned, food is in the DNA here. There’s a huge food community, which makes it easier for us to get in there and collaborate with local knowledge. Food is in the people, companies and communities in Halland. Also, true for south Sweden in general is that food knowledge is much higher here,” Ram Nair says.
Challenges and the blueprint for the future
Building infrastructure for fungi-based foods presents significant challenges, as no existing framework is comparable to products like Quorn. Mycorena’s substantial investment in the Falkenberg factory, costing around 40 to 50 million euros, demonstrates their commitment to developing a whole new infrastructure from scratch. The factory focuses on producing Promyc and serves as a blueprint for future factories.
Mycorena envisions a sustainable and efficient production model, allowing for scalable factory models in diverse locations, from cities to deserts. Their goal is not only to bring their product to market but also to help others build similar factories using their blueprint.
“We’re simply a food alternative. It doesn’t matter if it’s soy, pea, or wheat, in general these are all processes which require huge amounts of land and water, so it has a big impact on the climate. For us, we’re able to be in production in a sustainable, efficient manner and factories can be constructed in more scalable models, having them placed in cities as well as in the middle of the deserts,” Ram Nair says.
Curly kale – the Christmas superfood from Halland
It’s no secret that the people in Halland love curly kale. After all, it is our national dish. Ask any local what is a must on the Christmas table, and you will certainly get the answer ”curly kale”. Nowadays, we eat curly kale all year round, but where does this interest come from originally?
- We have been eating curly kale in Sweden for many years. There was curly kale in Sweden in the 14:th century and probably even earlier than that.
- It is said that Hallands great curly kale tradition comes from Germany. In the 19:th century many poor Hallandians went to northern Germany to find work. In Germany there was great interest in curly kale and when the Hallandians returned home, they brought back the interest and created new eating habits.
- Curly kale has long been associated with a dish called långkål (long kale) that belongs on the Halland Christmas table. Everyone has their own special touch for how the långkål should be cooked.
- Today, you can find curly kale in all sorts of dishes and snacks. In everything from smoothies and salads to chips and crisp bread.
- Curly kale is often referred to as a ”super vegetable” or ”super food”. In recent years, kale has become increasingly popular, with many of its health benefits often being highlighted.
- Curly kale is available everywhere in Halland. During harvest times you can find kale at many food markets and in farm shops.
Recipe: Swedish långkål
600 g (1¼ lb) kale leaves
1 tsp salt
1 litre (4 cups) cooking liquid from ham, ham stock or water
50 g (¼ cup) butter
180 ml (¾ cup) whipped cream
salt and freshly ground white pepper
¼ tsp ground mace, optional
1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar, optional
How to do it:
- Rinse and scrape the leaves from the coarse stems.
- Add the leaves to a large saucepan of boiling salted water and allow it to simmer for 2 minutes. (You may need to do this in two batches unless you have a very large saucepan.)
- Drain well in a large colander, pressing down well with a spoon to squeeze the water out of the kale leaves.
- Return the kale to a saucepan and pour the cooking liquid from the ham (or stock from ham/chicken/vegetables) over the kale so it is just covered. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Drain the kale again, squeezing out as much of the stock as possible. (If preparing in advance, when the kale is cold transfer it to a dish, cover with clingfilm (food wrap) and store in a fridge.)
- Roughly chop the kale.
- Melt the butter in a pan, add the kale and lightly fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add the cream and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.
- Add salt and white pepper to taste. Add ground mace and sugar if desired.
- Simmer for a further 5 minutes.
- Eat the långkål while piping hot.
- Steps 1 to 5 can be done up to 3 days in advance.
- Ideally långkål should be made using the cooking liquid from the ham, but it can be made using just water or ham stock made using a bouillon cube.
- Don’t be tempted to replace the cream with milk and flour as it really doesn’t taste as good, even if it might be a shade healthier.
Seaweed – the new green from the big blue.
Is it possible to farm vegetables in the ocean? Swedish seaweed company Kobb is set on farming sugar kelp on a large scale. Seaweed enriches our cuisine with healthy and environmentally friendly food. Now, Kobb wants to start its seaweed production in the sea on the coast of Halland, where conditions are optimal.
The Earth consists of 71 percent water, but just five percent of our food comes out of the oceans. There is a lot more edible to pick up from the depths of the sea. With this in mind, a group of passionate seaweed enthusiasts, most of them with backgrounds in marine biology, offshore rigs and marine life, started Kobb in 2017. The ambition is to farm the new green in the big blue on a large scale.
Operations manager at Kobb, Cajsa Torell, underlines the importance of farming seaweed instead of harvesting already existing weed. It’s a matter of environment and sustainability.
”Seaweed is environmentally positive”
– Seaweed is environmentally positive and captures nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon dioxide. It reduces over-nourishing in the sea, and helps reduce environmental effects from carbon dioxide. We want to add seaweed to the sea by cultivation, instead of harvesting the seaweed that is growing there naturally. There are risks with harvesting wild seaweed on a large scale, she says.
Long sugar kelp grows along the west coast
The algae Kobb grows is called sugar kelp. It’s a brown seaweed with undivided blades growing in its natural state along the Swedish west coast. It can be up to five meters in length and has a sweet taste due to large amounts of the sugar alcohol mannitol. It also contains large percentages of iodine, iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium as well as Vitamin C, A, B1, B2 and D. Farming starts in October when the sprouts are attached to a rope and placed in the sea.
– The rest is done by the seaweed itself, with a little help untangling the ropes. When the seaweed is about two meters long, it’s time for harvesting. The sugar kelps can be harvested after just seven months, in April. This is when the sea starts getting warmer and the risk for growth of other unwanted algae increases.
Seaweed has a lot of umami and enhances the flavors of food. In addition, it contains a lot of nutrients.
Going for the coast of Halland
Conditions outside the Halland coast are optimal for farming seaweed, and Kobb will start tests in the area in 2023.
– Sugar kelp needs salt water. Here, the salt levels are perfect for the seaweed to grow. Further south, salt levels decrease which makes farming harder, Cajsa Torell says.
There are plans to build two offshore wind parks outside the coast of Halland. Decisions can be made as early as 2023. It’s between those windmill turbines Kobb wishes to place the lines of sugar kelp.
– We see the possibility of collaborating on vast areas far out to sea and away from the environment closer to shore. If the wind parks receive a green light, farming of seaweed will be a great possibility to add to an environmentally positive value, as well as giving us the possibility to farm in large volumes. It can all be up and running by 2028, depending on when and if decisions are taken, says Cajsa Torell.
Food of the future
Seaweed is the food of the future, both in our cuisine and as forage, but also as a component in products as well.
– In Sweden, algae is mostly used for sushi, but seaweed can be used in other foods in a variety of ways. And not just food, there are other areas of use, such as packaging, hair and skin care.”
Kobb’s ambition is to produce 1,000 tons of sugar kelp annually within a couple of years. Currently, they have seven farming facilities outside the coast of neighboring region Bohuslän. This includes the planned wind park outside the coast of Halland, and will total several thousands of tons annually.
The goal is to deliver to the food industry, where it can be a new source for nutrition.
– Seaweed has a lot of umami and enhances the flavors of food. In addition, it contains a lot of nutrients. Also, you don’t need to add a lot of salt, since the seaweed is naturally salty,” Cajsa Torell says.
New business, new competence
The seaweed can be used in its wet state or dried and refined. Through refinement it will be easier for the industry to use it, says Cajsa Torell.
– Seaweed farming is a new business. It’s a lot about innovation, testing and finding new technology, she says.
Seaweed farming will grow and will be requiring manpower and new competences throughout the whole value chain, from farming, maintenance, harvesting and processing.
– It’s a field that attracts a younger generation, Cajsa Torell has noticed.
– We are often contacted by students who want to work with seaweed. The younger generation see the possibilities and the advantages on a larger scale. To us, this is very positive. People want to work with something they believe in and is a real, good thing, Cajsa Torell concludes.
Harvesting seaweed on the coast of Halland.
Ästad vineyard: Swedish wine from Halland
Ästad Vingård is one of Sweden’s largest vineyards. It is located in Åkulla Beech Forests, a beautiful nature reserve outside Varberg. At Ästad Vingård they grow organic grapes and produce their own wines. Also they run the Michelin-starred Restaurang ÄNG, and a nature-inspired spa and hotel.