🇮🇸 Nanna Lín – A startup re-imagining fish skin leather

February 15, 2024

The Nanna Lín project (nannalin.is) started in the spring of 2022 after the idea was left brewing for a year. The idea of the project popped into María Dís Ólafsdóttir’s head during a coffee meet up at a friend’s house. The discussion was led to the limitation of traditionally tanned fish skin and why it wasn’t being used by more companies and in more products. During this discussion one of the main reasons was identified as the size of the skins being too small to use in big quantities. So why not fix that? A year later María founded a company with her spouse Leonard Jóhannsson and applied for the first innovation grant. They received the grant and María went on to win the Icelandic innovation contest Norðansprotinn just a week later. The project has since gotten many innovation grants and the Nanna Lín team grew in number when Lilja Gísladóttir joined as head of research in the autumn of 2023.

María has been interested in science and innovation from an early age. She never meant to work with fish products but got surrounded by fishery scientists (sjávarútvegsfræðingar) during her study at the University of Akureyri, Iceland, which many are her best friends today. After discovering how amazing fish skin is and its potential there was no turning back. María is also doing a PhD at the University of Akureyri along with running the Nanna Lín company. The PhD project is of course part of the Nanna Lín development and one of the board members in the PhD committee is Dr. Alexandra Leeper, the Managing Director of International Affairs at the Iceland Ocean Cluster. Making established connections with the ocean cluster and other companies in the fishing industry has been a key in making the project successful.

The Nanna Lín product is a brand new type of fish leather, made from land based Icelandic salmon skin. The salmon skin is completely reshaped into big sheets before it is tanned, resulting in leather by the metre. The leather is still in development and the next experiment phase emphasises increasing the strength and flexibility of the leather. The Nanna Lín leather is brown and gets its color from being tanned in Mimosa bark solution. The Mimosa bark is commonly used for vegetable tanning and a well known natural method for making leather. The smell of the Nanna Lín leather also reminds of traditional cow leather, the smell originates from the bark tanning and the leather balm that is applied whem the product is ready.
The Nanna Lín teams aim to be a B2B business and supply other producers with top quality leather. By using leather by the metre, when making consumer products, factories and designers can make better use of the material compared to traditional leather.

Fish farms are on the rise, especially land based ones, and the fish is increasingly being fully processed in Iceland before being exported. That leaves behind a lot of side products which can be utilised for different products, including salmon skin. Since the Nanna Lín leather is reshaped, before being tanned into leather, it is possible to use small pieces of salmon skin and skin with beauty faults in it, therefore making full use of the salmon skin.

Originally published on 15 February by Sjávarklasinn.

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