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Maritime Forum
News article7 March 2024Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

International Day of Women’s Rights – Interview with Agnese Stunda-Zujeva: Paving the way for women in business and innovation in the algae sector

On International Day of Women’s Rights, we present a special interview featuring Agnese Stunda-Zujeva, the founder & CEO of SpirulinaNord

An experienced chemical engineer, researcher, and entrepreneur, Agnese is pioneering advancements in the microalgae industry. 


We explore eight insightful questions that shed light on Agnese's journey, challenges, innovations, and her perspective on the vital role of women in shaping the future of the algae sector. Let’s dive into her journey! 


1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to pursue a career in the algae sector? 

I am a chemical engineer with 15 years of academic expertise in research and teaching, coupled with the responsibility of raising three children. My journey led to the start of SpirulinaNord in 2019. While initially engaged in ceramic implant materials, my Postdoctoral experience presented an opportunity to transition into the world of microalgae, particularly inspired by the promising clinical studies surrounding spirulina. Also, the cultivation of spirulina doesn’t require specific expensive equipment. The accessibility of the technology together with my engineering skills made the rest. A fortunate encounter!  


2. As a woman entrepreneur and scientist in the algae sector, what challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them? 

I’m an optimist, and as a mother living in Latvia, I had the advantage of having 1.5 years of parental leave for childcare. During this time, I was able to switch my career path from chemical engineering to biotechnology and algae. However, after that period, running a company and having small kids was a challenge for time management. The bright side is that in the evening I play with them, which helps me switch off from work. 


3. Tell us about your innovative product and how it has contributed to the overall development and sustainability of the algae sector. 

SpirulinaNord’s innovation is a system designed to grow tropical spirulina in Nordic regions. This system ensures a fresher product while cutting on pollution caused by transport. 

We serve only fresh spirulina in the most nutritious and delicious form. The best compliment for us is when people, surprised, realise they can’t smell Spirulina in our product. A little secret to the success of SpirulinaNord! 


4. How can the industry encourage more female entrepreneurs and innovators to participate and lead in the algae sector? 

By offering more flexible working conditions to their workers, especially women. 

Encouraging women to work as they feel comfortable is a way to support a good work-life balance. Many of my employees are working mothers who value flexible working arrangements. 

A consequence of the COVID-19 global pandemic has been the increased opportunity to work remotely and attend online meetings with people from around the world. In my case, working remotely allowed me to avoid commuting to work: a big difference in terms of time management! If one of the kids is sick, I can still participate in important meetings from home. Due to the critically low birth rates in Europe, it is important to recognise that raising children takes time and effort. The moment when we invest the most in our professional growth often coincides with the moment we start growing our families. Thus, society should help women (and men, of course as well) to strike a good work-life balance. If productivity is measured by results rather than time spent in the workplace, then flexibility is much higher. We are currently in need of more algae experts, and women may be more receptive to learning. I believe they could be highly demanded algae experts. Offering them great job opportunities in the algae sector should be a must. 


5. What advice do you have for women aspiring to become entrepreneurs or innovators in the algae sector? 

A great way to turn your potential idea into a successful business is to find awesome mentors in entrepreneur clubs or startup accelerators who can guide you through the process. They can help you play with your innovative idea and find the perfect business model to turn it into reality. Women can surely create the best women-friendly working environment and services if given the opportunity. 


6. Have you had mentors or role models in your career? How have they influenced your journey? 

All the mentors that we met as a start-up (e.g., during RTU IdeaLab, EIT Clim KIC accelerator, and Buildit accelerator) were very important in helping us develop a business model and set up value proposition, among other key factors. Actually, it is because of them that my applied science project became a business. 


7. What role do you think days like Women's Day play in advancing gender equality in your field? 

International Women's Day is a great moment to look outside your bubble, meet different women, and talk about what it means to be a woman. It serves as a source of inspiration and empowerment for women, encouraging them to pursue their ambitions and overcome obstacles. 


8. Where do you see the algae industry heading in the next decade, and what role do you envision for women entrepreneurs in shaping its future? 

I think we can’t achieve the goals of the European Green Deal without algae, so I believe there is a big future for them. We can’t overlook the fact that 50% of the global population is female – women are and will play a crucial role: social and climate-responsible solutions are in growing demand, and this is exactly women’s strong side. 


Additional information  

Join the #EU4Algae conversation and keep an eye on the EU4Algae Forum to learn more about the development of the algae sector.    

To contact us, please use the following email: contactateu4algae [dot] eu (contact[at]eu4algae[dot]eu)


Publication date
7 March 2024
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries