The Varicon Aqua Team

Owner and Founder

Mr Joe McDonald, Managing Director

Joe McDonald has 30 years of multidisciplinary experience, with principle interests in aquatic biotechnology, and expertise ranging from finfish cultivation to behavioural ecology and algal population dynamics. Earlier in his career he designed, built and operated commercial marine hatchery operations for species such as Turbot, Sole, Halibut, Bass, Bream, Cod and Great Scallop. He later became a director of the British Marine Finfish Association and assistant Chair of the Orkney Fish Farmers Association. Subsequently he worked throughout Asia for the global leader in Aqua-Agri tech nutritional products in a solutions management role managing market benchmarking R&D and technical sales teams. This work has given him a broad outlook on business opportunities and he has developed extensive commercial relationships globally. In his current position as owner and managing director of Varicon Aqua Solutions he has successfully handled multi-million pound projects, and deployed a range of photobioreactor platforms in 130 locations across the globe. This includes involvement in previous biorefinery research initiatives such as FP7 projects; including BioAlgaeSorb and ShellPlant. He is currently steering the development of novel photobioreactor technology, as well as collaborating in a number of research initiatives focused on expanding the market potential for algal products. Currently he is a board member of Algae UK and a member of the Industrial committee of the EABA (European Algae Biomass Association).   


Scientific Team

Dr Marco Lizzul, Innovation Manager

Marco Lizzul has an interdisciplinary background grounded within the life sciences having undertaken a BSc in Biochemistry at the University of York. This was followed by an MRes in Molecular Plant Biology and Biotechnology at Imperial College London. He completed an EngD at University College London, where his research project ‘Integrated Production of Algal Biomass’ centred on engineering approaches to the investigation and development of lower cost algal production strategies, which included the use of waste streams as feedstock. During his doctorate he designed, constructed and commercialised an airlift photobioreactor system (the Phyco-Lift) with Varicon Aqua. Marco is a an active research scientist and has published peer reviewed literature within fields allied to algal biotechnology and biology; including biofuels, waste treatment & bioremediation, biochemical engineering, bioprocessing and process modelling. His research and development work has been supported by both the EPSRC and Innovate UK, and has previously been recognised for its potential importance to future UK economic activity with an Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. In his current role Marco is involved in the management of Varicon Aqua’s R&D programme, innovation pipeline and provision of professional services, as well as certain aspects of communication and technical sales.

Mr Jacob Searle, Laboratory Manager

Jacob Searle graduated with an MSc in aquaculture from Plymouth University with a research focus on fish nutrition. Since starting at Varicon Aqua, he has worked in a laboratory R&D capacity, been on active installations and has gained knowledge on photobioreactor operation. Furthermore, he has been instrumental within the innovation side of the business undertaking research on novel nutrient formulations, CAD based prototyping and photobioreactor design.


Engineering Team

Mr Ned Pamukov, Project Management

Nedulin Pamukov qualified from the Thracian Agricultural University in Bulgaria with a degree in agricultural economics. He has worked in the UK agricultural sector for 11 years, specialising in indoor crops and production systems. He later went on to manage his own fruit production company, where he developed experience in pesticides and irrigation line construction, as well as glasshouse/poly-tunnel construction and maintenance. Since working with microalgae he has developed a practical interdisciplinary project management skillset; with a focus on the implementation of commercial contracts, including the procurement, manufacturing and installation process.

Mr Nick Orgill, Engineering Support Manager

Nick Orgill is a time served agricultural engineer with over 30 years’ experience in design, build, fabrication, commissioning as well as sales, order processing and lead generation; technical and site surveys, detailed installation specification, project management, alongside spares and servicing.

Mr Ignas Narkus, Engineering Facilities Manager

Engineering facilities manager, a marine engineering graduate from Klaipeda Shipping School (Lithuania). Specialist in marine engineering, power electronics and electrical engineering. With over 20 years’ experience in industry Ignas has worked both on-shore and off-shore globally. Over the preceding 3 years he has been a key member of the Varicon Aqua design, fabrication and site installation team.


Accounts and Office

Ms Janet Serra, Accounts and Office Manager

Janet Serra, a highly qualified and efficient office and accounts manager. Responsible for the day to day operations of the business. A highly skilled communicator, Fluent in German and Italian, Janet’s ability to resolve issues across continents and cultures is invaluable to the business. Janet is supported in the office by Victoria Orton (supporting Accounts and Office Manager) and Mary Slater (Office Assistant).