Conference on September 8. Innovation and opportunities in Icelandic food production

Orkídea and the University of Iceland are holding a conference on innovation and opportunities in food production on September 8 at Hotel Selfoss. Matís employees Rósa Jónsdóttir and Kolbrún Sveinsdóttir will give a presentation on the production of new proteins for food and feed.

It is imperative to increase food production in the world significantly in the coming decades due to the ever-growing world population. This poses great challenges, as a large part of the world's usable vegetation is already used for agricultural production. Many usable fish stocks have reached their endurance limit and there is a growing shortage of energy and water for food production. These challenges also contain great opportunities for Iceland, which the intention is to shed light on at this event, which is a joint project of Orkídea, the Icelandic University of Agriculture, the Ministry of University, Industry and Innovation, the University of Bifröst, Íslandstofa, Lax-inn Education Center, Matís, the Agricultural Advisory Center, Association of small food producers and Ölfus Cluster.

Video recordings from the conference can be found by clicking the button below:

The conference program can be found here:

Moderator: Vigdís Häsler, executive director Farmers' Association of Iceland


Matís comes to the search for genetic factors of bow crisis

Bógkreppa is a hereditary genetic defect in sheep in Iceland. The defect is likely to be recessive, meaning that in order for lambs to be born with the symptoms of rickets, they must receive the defective gene from both parents. This means that the genetic defect has been hidden for years in the Icelandic treasury and then unexpectedly pops up.

Matís is involved in a project that aims to find a genetic marker that could be used to diagnose the defect in heterozygous individuals. If such a genetic marker were found, it would be possible to eliminate the genetic defect from Icelandic cattle and ensure that it does not enter insemination centers.

The research project is funded by the Professional Council for Sheep Breeding, led by the University of Iceland's Institute of Pathology at Keldum, and in addition to Matís, RML is involved in the project.

See more on the Bændablaðir website by clicking here

Photo: Shutterstock


Genetic modification of microorganisms

The guests of the Matvælið podcast this time are Björn Þór Aðalsteinsson, project manager at Matís and Tryggvi Stefánsson, assistant manager at Algalíf. In the episode, they review marketing and research considerations in relation to genetic modification of microbes.

Björn Þór tells us all about the Thermo-Tools project that Matís' biotechnology group has been working on for the past few years. The Thermo Tools project aims to develop new tools to genetically modify thermophilic microbes. Iceland has the unique feature of having a large number of hot springs and therefore very good access to heat-loving microbes. Thermophilic microbes live at very high temperatures, ranging from 50-121°C, and the problem lies in the fact that the devices and tools normally used for genetic modification do not work at such high temperatures.

Tryggvi Stefánsson from Algalíf tells us about their production of Astaxanthin and how the market in which Algalíf operates sets a clear policy against genetic modification and the importance of having non-GMO certification in their production.

Listen to the full episode below:

The host is Ísey Dísa Hávarsdóttir

Peer-reviewed articles

New wave of flavours–On new ways of developing and processing seaweed flavours

Seaweeds have a naturally salty taste owing to their high content of minerals like potassium, besides sodium, which can be used as a healthy sodium replacer in food. In addition, some seaweeds contain a range of potential flavor components which can be released by mild processing and used to naturally enhance the flavor of food. In the present study, flavor ingredients from brown seaweed to use as a food component were developed. The work included enzymatic processing, by subsequently applying an alginase (Alg3) and Umamizyme to freeze dried and milled Ascophyllum nodosum and Saccharina latissima seaweed biomass. The chemical composition was determined by means of monosaccharide, polyphenol, and sodium content. Flavor profiles of the produced flavor extracts were evaluated by e-tongue and a cell assay, as well as by sensory panelists. The seaweed extracts were incorporated into food models and their sodium replacing and flavor enhancing properties were objectively evaluated by trained sensory panelists. The aim was to offer innovative processing solutions and new healthy flavor ingredients to meet salt reduction targets and flavor enhancing properties using seaweed. The results obtained flavor ingredients that are richer in umami and salty taste with the potential to replace sodium and create flavor enhancing ingredients for certain food products.

Link to article

Peer-reviewed articles

Large differences in carbohydrate degradation and transport potential among lichen fungal symbionts

Lichen symbioses are thought to be stabilized by the transfer of fixed carbon from a photosynthesizing symbiont to a fungus. In other fungal symbioses, carbohydrate subsidies correlate with reductions in plant cell wall-degrading enzymes, but whether this is true of lichen fungal symbionts (LFSs) is unknown. Here, we predict genes encoding carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) and sugar transporters in 46 genomes from the Lecanoromycetes, the largest extant clade of LFSs. All LFSs possess a robust CAZyme arsenal including enzymes acting on cellulose and hemicellulose, confirmed by experimental assays. However, the number of genes and predicted functions of CAZymes vary widely, with some fungal symbionts possessing arsenals on par with well-known saprotrophic fungi. These results suggest that stable fungal association with a phototroph does not in itself result in fungal CAZyme loss, and lends support to long-standing hypotheses that some lichens may augment fixed CO2 with carbon from external sources.

Link to article

Peer-reviewed articles

Going to extremes–a metagenomic journey into the dark matter of life

The Virus-X—Viral Metagenomics for Innovation Value—project was a scientific expedition to explore and exploit uncharted territory of genetic diversity in extreme natural environments such as geothermal hot springs and deep-sea ocean ecosystems. Specifically, the project was set to analyze and exploit viral metagenomes with the ultimate goal of developing new gene products with high innovation value for applications in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical, and the life science sectors. Viral gene pool analysis is also essential to obtain fundamental insight into ecosystem dynamics and to investigate how viruses influence the evolution of microbes and multicellular organisms. The Virus-X Consortium, established in 2016, includes experts from eight European countries. The unique approach based on high throughput bioinformatics technologies combined with structural and functional studies resulted in the development of a biodiscovery pipeline of significant capacity and scale. The activities within the Virus-X consortium cover the entire range from bioprospecting and methods development in bioinformatics to protein production and characterization, with the final goal of translating our results into new products for the bioeconomy. The significant impact the consortium made in all of these areas was possible due to the successful cooperation between expert teams that worked together to solve a complex scientific problem using state-of-the-art technologies as well as developing novel tools to explore the virosphere, widely considered as the last great frontier of life.

Link to article

Peer-reviewed articles

A fast and inexpensive high-throughput protocol for isolating high molecular weight genomic DNA from lichens

Werth, S., Reynisdóttir, S., Guðmundsson, H. & Andrésson, Ó. S. 2016. A fast and inexpensive high-throughput protocol for isolating high molecular weight genomic DNA from lichens. — Herzogia 29: 610–616. Isolating high molecular weight DNA as required for genomic library preparations and other applications is a challenging task. We optimized a glass-fiber column-based, high throughput DNA isolation protocol to yield comparatively large quantities of high molecular weight, pure DNA; cell lysis based on a CTAB buffer was followed by centrifugation to remove cell debris, binding to a glass-fiber membrane under high concentration of a chaotropic salt (guanidine hydrochloride), followed by two 70 % ethanol washes and elution. This method was used successfully on several species of lichenized ascomycetes and on two non-lichenized basidiomycetes. Thus, while developed for lichens, the method is suitable for a range of fungal taxa.

Link to article


Registration has started for Green Entrepreneurs of the Future

Green entrepreneurs of the future (GFF) is an educational project by Matís intended for students in the upper grades of primary and secondary schools. The goal is to educate students about the effects of climate change on the ocean and its ecosystems, sustainability and innovation in an innovative and fun way. The project is open to all schools in the country and Matís has opened registrations for the school year 2022-2023.

The project takes place in schools under the guidance of teachers, and the projects can be localized according to the needs of each individual school. The project is divided into four workshops, field visits and a MAKEathon. The workshops include theoretical discussion and projects, the field visits are to a fishing company and the MAKEathon is an innovation competition

We encourage interested teachers and schools to register for the 2022-2023 school year. Registration is not binding, so those who are curious can definitely register as well. You can also contact the project manager Justine Vanhalst via email if any questions arise. You will also find the Green Entrepreneurs of the Future on the website and onto instagram.

An electronic information meeting will be held on August 18, at 1-1:30 p.m., where all aspects of the project will be covered and people will be given the opportunity to ask questions, more information about the meeting will be sent upon registration.

Registration is done by clicking the registration button below:

Here you can see a trailer from the TV channel N4 about Green Entrepreneurs of the Future, the show will be released later this fall.

Want to read more about the Green Entrepreneurs of the Future? Below is an interview with Katrína Hulda Gunnarsdóttir, who has worked on the project since the beginning:


Torula yeast meal in feed for Atlantic salmon, effects on growth and gut microbiota

The scientific article "Torula yeast in the diet of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar and the impact on growth performance and gut microbiome." was recently published by the scientific journal Scientific Reports, which is published by Nature. The effects of Torula yeast meal on the growth performance and gut microbiome of farmed salmon were investigated, where conventional proteins in feed were replaced by yeast meal. The results may surprise you.

With the rapid growth of salmon farming, the need to find and develop suitable substitutes for traditional protein sources in feed increases. Torula yeast flour (Candida utilis) has been defined as a neoprotein (e. Alternative Protein) which can replace traditional protein in feed. The yeast can be grown sustainably. This study examined the effects of yeast meal on growth performance and gut microbiota in freshwater Atlantic salmon. Feed containing protein from seafood, eg fishmeal, as well as mixed marine and plant protein where conventional proteins were replaced by increased amounts of yeast meal (0%, 10%, 20%) were tested.

This study showed that during the growth stage of freshwater salmon, yeast meal can partially replace traditional proteins in compound feed, but that the optimal amount of intake depends on the total composition of the feed and the types of proteins being replaced. In the feed containing seafood protein, this study revealed that 20% yeast meal can be added to the feed without altering growth performance and with potential benefits to the gut microbiota such as an increase in some lactic acid bacteria.

In comparison, in the feed combining seafood protein and plant protein, 10% yeast meal content supports better growth performance than conventional proteins. At the higher intake level, 20%, there was no growth benefit and potentially adverse changes in gut microbiota, such as a decrease in lactic acid bacteria and an increase in bacterial abundance associated with slower growth in other salmonids.

Find out more about these interesting results and read the full scientific article here

Birgir Örn Smárason professional manager at Matís and Sigurlaug Skírnisdóttir project manager at Matís, are among the authors of the article, for more information you can contact them at the following email addresses and


The green entrepreneurs of the future


Katrín Hulda Gunnarsdóttir


Green entrepreneurs of the future (GFF) is an educational project at Matís that started in June 2021. The mission of the project is to educate Icelandic elementary school students about climate and environmental issues, and the project is funded by the Climate Fund. Katrín Hulda Gunnarsdóttir, an expert at Matís has worked on the project together with Justine Vanhalst, project manager at Matís. Katrín shares with us the journey of the project from the beginning.

"It was pleasing to see how interested and really knowledgeable the kids were about the effects of climate change. It soon became clear that this is an issue that is on their minds and they are very aware of the discussion that is taking place in society at the moment."

Why Green entrepreneurs of the future?

"I had just finished a teacher training course where I had learned various concepts such as problem-solving learning, student-centered learning and gamification. When I saw a job advertised to work at GFF, I thought it was a perfect fit. It both fit well with the philosophy I wanted to adopt as a teacher, addressed issues that I consider important and would give me experience in creating learning materials. I applied for it and have been here ever since," says Katrín Hulda.

You don't have to look far beyond a dose to have an effect

"The goal of GFF is to arouse the interest and increase the knowledge of primary school children about climate and environmental issues, innovation and sustainable resource use in order to mobilize them in the fight against climate change and encourage them to green innovation."

"This was done by providing innovative and interesting education and engaging them in conceptual work and innovation in cooperation with companies in the local area with a special focus on environmental impact and resource use. With that, the intention was to strengthen relationships between parties within the students' home areas and show them that often you don't have to look far to be able to make an impact." 

"With innovative education, we were mainly thinking about making it exciting, impressive and empowering for the kids." It has the effect of reducing climate anxiety. In order to combat climate anxiety among children and young people, it has been recommended, among other things, to tell them the truth, give space to difficult feelings and allow them to take part in the fight. The authors of the GFF curriculum had this in mind when writing. Katrín Hulda explains.

Challenges following Covid 19 were solved with resourcefulness

"The goals were achieved and the project went better than we dared to hope. Of course, the organization changed a little due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but the schools were incredibly resourceful in sorting things out. As an example, in Sauðárkrók it was not possible to visit the companies due to a ban on visitors, due to the Covid mass restrictions. Instead, the students received visits from the companies, where they were told about their activities. There were presentations, videos and many other things, and it seemed like a great success."

Year school

"Feedback from teachers and other participants came out very well, and was very valuable in refining the project for the next round." It can also be mentioned that there is a great lack of study materials on climate and environmental issues for this age group, and therefore there is a certain gap that the project fills in," says Katrín Hulda.

Did something new or even unexpected come to light?

"It was fun to see how good the kids are at innovation. Not only do they come up with brilliant ideas, but they also showed good work practices and achieved a lot in a very short time when the MAKEathons took place. MAKEathon is an innovation competition where you compete to come up with the best solution to a given problem. In our case, the competitions took place over two days and the kids made prototypes, models or posters of their solutions to environmental problems.

It was pleasing to see how interested and really knowledgeable the kids were about the effects of climate change. It soon became clear that this is an issue they are passionate about and they are very aware of the debate that is taking place in society at the moment. Moreover, there was a great will to fight among them, but they feel that this is the biggest problem facing the rest of the world," says Katrín Hulda.

"It was possible to localize the projects according to the needs of each individual school. The teachers took the projects and made them their own, for example, teachers at Grunnskóli Bolungarvík linked the subject matter to the history of Bolungarvík, and teachers at Sauðárkrók took advantage of the opportunity and used the one experiment to teach their students how to report.

"It was also cool to see how empowering the MAKEathon was for the students. Having the opportunity to deal with "real problems", ie. the same problems that the adults in their immediate environment face, seemed to give them new assumptions and ambitions. It was very important to them that this was not just some textbook example that was then put in a drawer and never done anything more with."

The first year of the project ended with a bang and the impact is not hidden

"The first year of the project, hopefully of many, ended this spring with a bang. The national MAKEathons competition, GFF's innovation competition, was held and the results were presented during Innovation Week. All participants were very satisfied and there seemed to be a great desire to continue the project.

The impact has primarily been on the students. They have learned a lot, both academically, ie about climate change and its effects, but also practically, i.e. work practices An increased understanding of the nature of climate change and its effects, among other things, on their local environment has been achieved. The kids' perspective on their hometown changed as a result, as well as on the companies that operate there. They learned to see opportunities in their local environment. FabLab smidjarnar and Djúpið Frumkvöðsetur came in strong, but their expertise includes teaching kids innovation and entrepreneurship.

The teachers have also received new weapons in their pedagogical arsenal, both in terms of theoretical knowledge and also new teaching methods. Hopefully, these methods will continue to be useful to them, whether they teach environmental science or some other subject. We must not forget the impact the project has had on us. We are full of inspiration and would like to take the students, and their creativity, as our example," says Katrín Hulda.

Year school
Bolungarvík elementary school

What are the next steps?

"The course material itself will be made available online as agreed. It would be nice to be able to publish it properly though, with illustrations and a nice presentation. The intention is to apply for a grant for such a thing."

"As for the next school year, the registration of schools that want to participate has been opened. Both the oldest classes of primary schools and secondary schools can participate. Matís' role is to be within their reach, but the study material is all there, so it shouldn't take much intervention for the MAKEathons to come. Registration has been opened and will end on September 1. Those interested receive a short Google survey that they fill out."

Those who wish to learn more about the project or access teaching materials are directed to the project's website: The project also maintains an Instagram page with various information and pictures:

Special thanks to our partners: Stefán Þór Eysteinsson at Matís, Gunnar Þórðarson at Matís, Ragnhildur Friðriksdóttir former employee of Matís, Year School Sauðárkróki, Nesskóli Neskaupstaður, Elementary School Bolungarvík, Djúpið Frumkvöðsetur Bolungarvík (Gunnar Ólafsson), FabLab Ísafjörður, FabLab Neskaupstaður, FabLab Sauðárkrókur, N4 Television, Cambridge University. Dögun shrimp processing, FISK Seafood, ArcticFish and Eskja.

Registration has started

Registration for Green Entrepreneurs of the Future for the next school year has opened. The project is suitable for the oldest grades of primary school and the basic courses of secondary school. For more information, those interested can contact the project manager, Justine Vanhalst at Registration is done by clicking the button below: