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microalgae

Sustainability

Defining the future food

Published 26 August 2022 in Sustainability • 5 min read

In May 2022, under the leadership of IMD alumni Arturo Ania, Mara Renewables Corporation took one step closer to moving the world toward more sustainable food systems – raising $39.5M in growth equity to rapidly expand its micro-algae based product portfolio.

Mara Renewables Corporation (Mara), one of the world’s leading producers of sustainably-grown algae-based bio-products, aims to create a more sustainable future by harnessing the power of the ocean without harvesting its resources.

“We do this by going straight to the source, extracting high quality oil from microalgae, the real origin of omega-3 fats in all seafood products, which is grown sustainably ashore. Through the algal omega-3 platform that we have developed and commercialised, we are providing ingredients to infant nutrition, supplement and food and beverage customers around the world,” explains Ania.

Packed with nutritional and nutraceutical ingredients for human health, microalgae provides a sustainable, plant-based alternative to fish oil. In 2021 alone, Mara says it supplied enough DHA-rich fatty acids to the supplement, food and beverage markets to offset an estimated 7.36 billion anchovy fish.

Mara CEO Arturo Ania, who completed his MBA at IMD in 2006, believes that the  organisation is at the forefront of transitioning the world towards a more sustainable food system.

“We believe that people five or ten years from now will be able to look back at what we are doing today and point to it as a moment where the future of food shifted toward something better,” says Ania.

For Ania, who joined Mara in May 2021, just as the company embarked on its fundraise, ensuring that the company clearly communicated what it was trying to achieve was very important.

“Mara positioned itself as authentic plant-based food company. Yes, it is that, but it’s also more than that. What we are ultimately doing is trying to rewrite the food system at a time where the world desperately needs change in how we manage our natural resources.”

Mara Renewables Corporation (Mara), fermentation facility located in the UK.Mara Renewables Corporation's fermentation facility located in the UK.

Finding purpose

It’s this sense of purpose that Ania was looking for when he made the decision to leave his “dream job” as an automotive design and test engineer in 2005 to complete his MBA at IMD.

“I was always a car nut. I studied mechanical engineering at the University of Toronto and went on to design and test driving cars all over the world for the likes of Chrysler and Mitsubishi. But after six incredible years, in which I successfully helped launch five vehicles, I realised that I needed a change,” explains Ania.

Ania had always wanted to do an MBA to supplement his engineering background with business know-how. For him, IMD was an attractive proposition given the opportunity to be exposed to new cultures and environments, and the fact that it could be completed in one year.

Ania left his job at Mitsubishi and took the opportunity before his MBA commenced to backpack around the world, visiting China and India before heading to Europe. “During my travels I observed that the cities with the best quality of life were those with the least amount of cars. I realised that the world didn’t need me to design more cars and so my focus shifted.”

For Ania, IMD was a life-changing experience.

“From the friendships and relationships you develop, to the unique international experience it provides, IMD has given me the connection and support of so many people, which I continue to have to this day. I still have regular interactions with my IMD WhatsApp groups.

“As an engineer, I really wanted to grow my business knowledge, from accounting to private equity, but what really stood out for me from my year at IMD was what I learnt about leadership, especially the psycho-analytical aspect of it – the importance of understanding who you are as a person, and of challenging and reinforcing your values.”

What really stood out for me from my year at IMD was [...] the importance of understanding who you are as a person, and of challenging and reinforcing your values.
- Arturo Ania

Leading the charge to plant-based alternatives

After completing his MBA Arturo spent 12 years at DuPont, specialised product and solutions company, where he put the leadership lessons he had learnt at IMD to work, holding leadership roles across the globe, including Head of  Plant-Based Ingredient business for EMEA.

“This is where my work in the sustainable food space began. During my time at DuPont we achieved a number of industry firsts, especially in the alternative meat category,” explains Ania.

He then went on to join DuPont Sustainable Solutions, the consulting arm of DuPont (which began operating as an independent firm in 2019), where he served as the Head of Agriculture, Food and Beverage. Here Ania took on the challenge of setting up the firms Private Equity and ESG practice.

Mara was a natural next step for Ania, providing him with an opportunity to lead a growing global team of over 100 people at the forefront of innovation in creating more sustainable food systems and improving human health.

Finding purpose in your life and career

Ania’s advice to anyone wondering if perhaps what they thought was their dream job is not really want drives them, is to start by asking themselves some simple questions.

“Is this your dream job? Why? Does this “why” really align with your values? Be honest with yourself.”

Ania believes that to be a leader you need to create the building blocks early on.

“Make sure you give yourself life experiences that really push you out of your comfort zone. Don’t take the first-class flight, backpack. Allow yourself to get goosebumps and butterflies. If what you are doing doesn’t give you that you are not really pushing yourself. Build social equity, make friendships with people from across the world. Lastly, identify mentors, people that you can lean on to help give clarity when you need it.”

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