Jean-Philippe Olivier is setting out to start a company that will protect the Maritimes’ glorious beaches from harmful jellyfish and make money doing it.
Olivier is a former restaurateur from northern France who came to New Brunswick about eight years ago to work in the hospitality industry. Now living in Grand-Barachois, near Shediac, he is the founder and controlling shareholder of Pilou Products Inc., which is now going through the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition.
The vision is simple. Pilou aims to work with three levels of government in the next five years to install nets to prevent jellyfish from coming onto the beaches at the 125 federal, provincial and municipal beaches in the Maritimes, which should prevent swimmers from being stung by jellyfish and help tourism. These nets will have the added benefit of skimming off the oils from swimmers’ hair products and suntan lotion before they enter the ecosystem.
These jellyfish will be the feedstock for the company. Once it harvests them, Pilou will extract collagens and mucin (naturally produced proteins) from the jellyfish that could be used in pharmaceutical, cosmetics and medical products. The remaining matter will be dried and ground up for use as horticultural fertilizer.
The attraction of using proteins from jellyfish is they are such simple organisms that the chemicals they possess have none of the impurities found in more complex animals, which makes these collagens ideal for consumer products, said Olivier.
Speaking at the Breakthru Bootcamp in Fredericton, he explained that the global jellyfish population is growing strongly because of climate change and the decimation of its natural predators. This is bad for beaches and for the fishery because jellyfish consume herring and lobster larvae.
“Not only will this company bring back smiles and comfort to our tourists and local elected officials, but in years to come to our fishermen by maximizing the transformation of this ‘nuisance phenomenon’ that keeps tourists away from our beaches,” said Olivier in a YouTube elevator pitch that he submitted to Breakthru.
Pilou is not the only company exploring the commercial uses of jellyfish and Olivier said he has learned of at least one South Korean company that is planning something similar with giant jellyfish.
Olivier is still working out the plans for launching the company, and will be working with the organizers of Breakthru to hone the business plan. He hopes to test the nets in New Brunswick beaches this summer and develop the natural products as the company develops.