The story behind Zooca Our History

Our History

While everybody else was thinking big, we were thinking small. Our idea, based on a 4mm long zooplankton, started 20 years ago and we’ve been nurturing it ever since. Today, feeding people and animals with sustainable, healthy, high-quality nutrition has, we admit it, grown into a bit of a big thought, and it’s still growing.

We’re passionate about the tiny zooplankton called Calanus finmarchicus. It’s the world’s most abundant species and its potential for positive effects for people and planet are as big, as it is small. Sustainably harvested and refined in our eco-friendly, gentle refinery, right here on our doorstep, Calanus finmarchicus is one of the Norwegian Sea’s largest renewable resources.

Our Zooca® products are packed full of nutrients, gently refined to keep its natural qualities, 100% chemical and additive free and scientifically linked to good long-term health. Nothing added. Nothing removed.

Today we offer the following products in the market for both human and animal health: Zooca® Lipids, Zooca® Hydrolysate, Zooca® Powder, Zooca® Seafrozen.

Out on the sea

In 1767, in the ocean just outside Hammerfest in the Northern Part of Norway, J.E. Gunnerus caught a creature of an unknown species - a small red copepod. The copepod's had a modest size of 3-5 millimetres and revealed at that point in time nothing about its great potential and the role it will play in the future. The copepod was named Calanus finmarchicus.

The beginning

Kurt Tande, a professor of marine ecology, had become a specialist in understanding potential of the Calanus finmarchicus. Looking at the lipids from the copepod under a magnifying glass, Kurt Tande came up with an idea. He joined forces with Gunnar Rørstad, and they established Calanus AS in 2002. Gunnar Rørstad is a fisheries candidate with a major in marine biochemistry. The company’s foundation was the start of our exciting new future.

Early research & development

The first few years was exploratory where we tried to find out what opportunities the raw material had and what possible products we could derive from this unique resource. We researched and developed tool technology for harvesting and explored how this resource could be processed. 

Snorre Angell was our first formal employee in the company. He was responsible for developing tools for harvesting as well as the processing technology. Angell would take many trips to the sea, fight storms and test one harvesting solution after another. The company now had an exciting raw material, and a raw material that quickly became interesting to players in the aquaculture industry.

First business plan

Their unyielding faith in the raw material meant that the entrepreneurs had to develop a business plan and strategy in order to secure future development. They also developed an IPR strategy early on, as we led the way and spearheaded research within a totally new field with a totally new resource.


With a pilot plant and business plan in place, the company is ready to enter the market. The development of lab-scale processes and prototype products resulted in early sales revenue, but also supported further development of our products.


The company realized early on that it was critical to ensure sustainable harvesting. We therefore entered into a dialogue with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to discuss framework conditions and regulations for harvesting. We also began a cooperation with the Institute of Marine Research and the Directorate. Our contribution in this process was to ensure a strong science and knowledge-based foundation for a harvesting plan. A management plan for C. finmarchicus and regulation of harvesting was established by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries in 2019.

Sales Norway

We started selling Calanus oil as a dietary supplement in Norway. This was based on the company’s belief and knowledge that the resource has unique health benefits for humans.

First steps to commercialization

We introduced the dietary supplement for sale in the United States. A business-to-business strategy was put in place. At the same time, we facilitated more research to explore the benefits for human health continued, in close cooperation with several external scientists at the Arctic University who found the resource exiting to explore.

“This little creature removes belly fat»

A student delivered his PhD thesis that showed promising effects when consuming calanus oil. The local newspaper publishes an article about the research and attaches a picture. The story the headlines "this little creature removes belly fat". Four days later, over 2.000 orders came in.

The first ordinary production

We started with the first ordinary production at Biotep, Nofima's pilot plant. This enabled us to develop our production process and obtain the documentation the company needed to apply for market approval and thus gain market access in key markets.

Customer service established

Our business to consumer division (Calanus Helse AS) catering to the Norwegian customer was established in Sortland. The company sets up a customer call-centre, systems for customer care, establishes routines for packing and dispatching and develops communication strategy and product design. From the start ensuring customer satisfaction and support has been important.

Regulatory approvals

Finalized dossiers for regulatory approval as Novel Food in EU was obtained. This opened up a large potential market for us. Ingredient sales B2B were still limited and based on our pilot-scale manufacturing.

Growth from pilot scale production

A milestone reached when we passed 10.000 subscriptions for Calanus® Oil in Norway. Our customer base had grown steadily in our home market.

Commercial Harvesting

The Government adopted the management plan. This was a major milestone for sustainable harvesting of copepods. The management plan is based on facts and knowledge. It also lays the foundation for creating a sustainable industry. Sustainability has always been and is an important value and foundation in the company.

20,000 subscriptions

A new milestone when we passed 20.000 subscriptions for Calanus® Oil in Norway.
With the increasing need for new marine feed ingredients in the aquaculture industry and the global need for marine oil and marine protein for human consumption, the company continues its driving force and motivation to establish a new Norwegian industry. We therefor decide to build our own production plat and named it «Rogue One». In 2019, the foundation stone for the world's first factory for biorefining Calanus finmarchicus was laid in Sortland in Vesterålen.

New production facility– “Rouge one”

In the autumn of 2021, the world's first Calanus finmarchicus factory was completed. We were granted license for handling of human and animal by-products. The factory became a reality thanks to our good cooperation with stakeholders, supporters, partners and customers. By this we also hope to show that it is possible and profitable to establish new industry in the north.

New brand and name

We developed a new brand name and design. As our unique products are based on the zooplankton Calanus finmarchicus, Calanus changes its brand name to Zooca® – The Calanus Company. With a new playful design, we will continue to evolve and make ourselves more known in the world.

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