Oban-based photobioreactor company Xanthella was the first in town to sign up to the Business Pledge – winning it a visit from John Swinney MSP.
Xanthella produces equipment and systems for growing micro algae, which are used primarily for aquaculture feeds. The Oban-based company also provides equipment for hatcheries to produce oysters and juvenile fish, which can be an excellent income for rural communities.
The company also has a part to play in solving some of the problems of renewable electricity. At the moment, there’s no infrastructure to deal with intermittent renewable energy – from wind, wave, tidal or solar. This can be a barrier for manufacturing processes that need a constant energy supply. But growing algae is a flexible process – you can adjust production according to how much energy you have. So Xanthella is developing plans to give local communities a way to use the excess electricity produced on good days to grow algae, and to pause production when it’s calm.
Signing up to the pledge was an easy thing to do, says founder and managing director Douglas McKenzie. “Lots of things in the pledge are the minimum that a company should be doing: innovation, attract and retain good people, and valuing your staff. From a personal view, it’s a statement of what I believe we should be doing.”
Xanthella has signed up to all nine elements of the pledge. As a small business with only six permanent staff in a particularly niche area, achieving a gender balance on its board will be the only element that the company might struggle to achieve quickly. The business was already paying the Living Wage, was committed to an innovation programme and supported workforce engagement.
One of the main reasons for signing up to the pledge was to raise the profile of the business. To Douglas’ surprise, Xanthella was the first company in Oban to sign up – and before he knew it, John Swinney MSP came to visit.
The pledge also gives the company a little more credibility. It’s a simple way to show that it’s a good company to work for, and to work with. Whether that’s giving future staff reassurance, or partners the confidence in prompt payment, it will be a good thing for the company.
It will also help Xanthella to grow. The company only exists because of the innovative technology it develops – but being reminded of that commitment to innovation is an excellent way to spur the company on to new things. For small businesses like Xanthella, that can make all the difference.